Planeta’s Sicily

Missed flight fifth order of business @planetawinery 2008 #santacecilia #docnoto

On a most recent trip to Sicily I tasted no less than 20 wines from Planeta’s five estates, most with winemaker Patricia Tóth and some all by my lonesome. I will be tasting more with the ethereally-worldy Tóth in just over an hour from now so what better time to share these notes than right now. There was a Chardonnay 2002, Eruzione Riesling and Santa Cecilia Noto 2008 as well but those notes need time, music and deeper thought.

Degustazione e bei tempi with the @planetawinery gang ~ #lookup #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18 #siciliaep2018

Planeta Grillo Terebinto Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Planeta’s varietal grillo is raised at Cantina Ulmo in Menfi, a western Sicilian outpost where pebbly-inlaid deep soils are found around Lake Arancio. The terebinth is a Sicilian shrub with glossy fronds. a.k.a. Pistacia Terebinthus or white pistachio, used as rootstock for pistachio production. The Menfi grillo is pulled from a low lying clay vineyard at 50m. Aromatics and texture are equally rich at maximum ripeness as bottled sunshine, pomelo sago unctuous and so consumable. Mango trees are actually in the same family as pistachio but of more interest is the fact that the female trees produce the nuts while the male produces the pollen. Sounds familiar, not to mention that male and female pistachio trees are often grafted together to bring about pollination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Alastro Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Winery, SAQ 11034361, $22.00, WineAlign)

Alastro amalgamates 70 per cent grecanico with 15 each grillo and sauvignon blanc for one tart, intense, highly aromatic, mineral and striking western Sicilian white blend. It’s certainly got a tropical feel but not in any creamy or humid sense. Also known as the bush La Segreta, meaning “broom,” the horny plant was used for natural fences and as a general intruder deterrent. Take note of the locked in neoteric and floral aromatics from this early September harvested blend, wild as its name suggests and best when youthfully fresh. Grecanico can age but this blend screams immediate gratification. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018

Carnage for two please

Planeta Etna Bianco 2017, Etna DOC, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

The Etna is 100 per cent carricante produced at the Feudo di Mezzo winery in the Contrada Taccione, in Montelaguardia. Now labeled simply as Etna, not as the artist formerly known as Bianco and apparently for no reason at all. Seventeen was a really warm year here in the 690-720m vineyard and so the quickest maceration was performed due to so much sun-developed colour on hand. Stayed on lees until February, also less than usual but again the hot season saw quick development. The quotient distilled is a plentiful one, a brocade like golden silk, full and full of everything it can be. Not the sapid, mineral and volcanic salty carricante of let’s say 2014 but sometimes “luxury is the opposite of vulgarity…and complication, a necessity that begins where necessity ends.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2016, Doc Sicily, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Passion projects are not for the faint of heart but they are perhaps reserved for winemakers too smart and too worthy for their own good. Eruzione is such an animal for Planeta’s winemaker Patricia Tóth, a varietal carricante ode (with 10 per cent riesling) to the great and tragic 1614 Etna eruption. If boys don’t cry I still shed a tear or two for history and for my love of this wine. It comes from the black volcanic soil of the Contrada Sciaranuova vineyard, next up the mountain from Contrada Santo Spirito. In ’16 it’s not measured by a low ’14-like pH, not quite as sharp, so therefore fuller and with more unction. It’s still an Etna-bled eruptive white, still beating raw by laser focus out of inspirational terroir. Readier too because it’s been held back a few more months for release. This wine will let you arrive at where you want to be. So many whites are mired in repeatable refrains. “Plastic passion is a Hyacinthe heart. Plastic passion is a transparent tart…Plastic passion is a gold guarantee. The plastic passion is murdering me.” Eruzione is life affirming and though other wines may pay the bills, this cariccante is the cure. Fill your prescription and drink up its passion. It’s the winemaker’s too. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Rosé Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

Planeta’s Rosé is half nero d’avola and half syrah, the nero coming from higher elevations. “We want something that we like to drink,” is the matter of fact explanation from winemaker Patricia Tóth. The first vintage was 2007 and it has evolved into this lithe and yet lush blush, the syrah bringing crisp verve and nerve. It is perhaps not as aromatic as some high level Planeta but that’s the life where odd bedfellows compliment one another in a modern world. Salty and sexy equals good combination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $29.37, WineAlign)

The only Sicilian DOCG in Planeta’s hands is noticeable, contractable and notable for quality consistency, both for the denomination and the estate style. Rich but tangy with so much soil voce, it flows effortlessly across the palate with malleable texture. Like Bourgogne Villages it starts at fruity and two years forward will begin to morph, into tobacco, funghi and salts of the earth.  Last tasted May 2018

Planeta’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria brings together nero d’avola and endemic frappato with only a stainless steel ferment in an anti-oxidative and naturally anti-oxidant way. This is nothing but freshness in a bottle with its ubiquitous red berry verve. You can just feel the breaths in this radiant Planeta, of winemakers and coveters of Sicilian treasures. You just have to taste Cerasuolo to understand how generous and graceful it is, earthy but of lovely clarity and spice all over the finish. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted November 2017

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG Dorilli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Nocera Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This is just the second vintage of Nocera, from the province of Messina and one of the most dramatic vineyard landscapes on the planet. La Baronia on Capo Milazzo is a long strip of a peninsula that looks out to the Aeolian islands. Nocera is by accounts an unusual variety made by approximately 15 producers, also in Faro and the total wines produced are from 28 hectares in total. The expectation is a marine wine of macchia, myrtle and garrigue. “It’s a beast,” says Patricia Tóth, especially in marine areas with huge clusters. It’s notable for its thickness and tannin, smelling of white pepper, maybe a note of geranium and it just might become a superstar. It’s like a child of cabernet franc and primitivo but with gamay plus pinot structure. Or like Bandol, with fleshy tannin and with time it will beocme a velvety version of its thick self. Don’t forget the salinity. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Pinot Nero 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $42.99, WineAlign)

Even within the erudite and super-investigative Eruzione 1614 series there is no internet or Planeta mention of the newest member Pinot Nero IGT Terre Siciliane 2016. It’s high volcanic mountain landscape time we talk about Etna and pinot noir. The symbiosis is a reality meeting necessity at a crossroads of potential. Not just any potential mind you but a Burgundian one. “We don’t want to talk about Bourgogne but Etna is the only Sicilian terroir where it can build a house,” says winemaker Patricia Tóth. The perfume, texture and tannic structure is all pinot noir, picked on a Saturday afternoon which was the moment of truth from green to spirit, the aha before moment the sun-dried plum is placed into the cognac. This is all heard in Sicily but it’s all true. There are now two terraces of fruit, so the current production of 1472 bottles may become 4000! Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $42.99, WineAlign)

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted May 2018

Planeta Santa Cecilia Doc Noto 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $54.99, WineAlign)

The first vintage was in the late 90s and the appellation eventually became DOC Noto, with the initial vintage of 2003 having been where it was fully done in Noto, but 2008 is the official DOC recognition. This is when both Noto and Sicilia are on the label for the DOC to be recognized as 100 per cent nero d’Avola. Comes by way of the white chalky soils of Noto and is deceptively rich, deeply rendered, of an incredible acidity, dark and viscous fruit. There is so much happening in violet florals and light. Did I mention the acidity, amazingly linear but waiting to circle and become ringing. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Allemanda Sicilia Noto DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Allemanda is made from 100 per cent moscato bianco and if you have not tried to sit on a beach in the shade with a bottle of this gently but forcefully aromatic farfalle of a Noto in Sicilia white then you have yet lived. The self-professed Baroque dance is truly an exotic reminder of jasmime blooms and tropical citrus. It’s actually a bit tannic and also extremely refreshing. Two hands in the air for Noto’s soils and sea-proximity to do what’s necessary and beautiful for moscato. Dangerously consumable. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2018

Cometa Fiano Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $49.99, WineAlign)

Cometa from Menfi is the other fiano, the somewhat rare and effusive fiano from Sicily. The elusive one is a Planeta speciality and one of winemaker Patricia Tòth’s great secret varietal weapons, a Mediterranean that pleases quickly, compliments all that is drawn from the sea and is capable of developing complexity with age. This is both floral and juicy, combining for this lychee meets honeysuckle into tropical territory. Streaks like a comet indeed, right across the palate and into your psyche. Not to mention your bleeding heart. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Burdese Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Burdese is cabernet sauvignon (70 per cent) and cabernet franc as the playful Bordelais blend, dialectical in nomenclature and in style. It’s an adaptation from “Bordolese” and into the land. The trilogy of sun-ripened phenolics, rich texture and silky tannins make this quite easy to drink, especially with four years past and medium rare protein on the plate. All aspects of sun-reasoned votes play notes, of tomato, dusty plum and dark currants. Flavour abounds with no sign of impending decline. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Maroccoli Syrah Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The name Maroccoli is local for “ideally situated vineyard” and syrah must find its spots to shine. An elevated hill between lake and sea is this Maroccoli’s place in the sun and the syrah it delivers is spicy, high tonal and indelibly stamped with firm grip. It’s both meaty and exotic, wildly berry filled and sharp as a tack. It seems syrah could use an extra year or two beyond the Bordolese out of Menfi. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018

Sito Dell’umo Merlot Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here the biggest of the three Menfi reds and the varietal home from where the estate’s story really begins. No wood holds barred or lack of ripeness can keep this Bordolese down, not with such a firm grip by way of tannin derived off of sun-worshipping vines and generous barrels. On its own the merlot is more demanding than the Burdese and just as grippy-peppery as the syrah. It’s a wine best enjoyed when it reaches the balsamico-ganache-medicinal herbs stage. That has yet to happen. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Missed flight fifth order of business @planetawinery 2008 #santacecilia #docnoto

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Castello di Ama’s state of the art

Two months ago yet another Toscana adventure came to a close. The tastes and sights indelibly stamped are etched forever in memory. Before moving on down the SR2 from Siena to Montalcino we paid the most profound and contemplative Chianti Classico visit of all, sulle colline di Gaiole. To a place where wine, art and landscape interact, variegate and intertwine. A place where the slow pace of play is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated, not at Castello di Ama.

La Cappella di Villa Pianigiani (18th century)

It was mid-August 1995 and my wife and I were on honeymoon, holed up in a little nook of Castelnuovo Berardenga near Ponte e Bozzone, just outside of Siena. We used this idyllic spot as our base camp from which to explore Chianti Classico for two full weeks that summer, which incidentally was cool, often rainy and now, none to my decades of studiously learning about sangiovese surprise later, proved to have resulted in turning out some elegant and structured wines.

One day we drove up into the Gaiole in Chianti hills, up a long drive past what I now know as Vigneto Bellavista and parked on a crest of gravel straddling the picturesque vineyard on one side and on the other, Vigneto San Lorenzo of Castello di Ama. Just as it was on February 15th of this year, the scene was one of stillness and tranquility, frozen in time, albeit memory delivers the picture in black and white. We wandered aimlessly, taking in the vines and the quietude when a small voice came rising from a dwelling in the tiny hamlet. An old woman motioned for us to come down the steps and into a small room. We tasted a few sangiovese, purchased a few bottles and were on our way.

La Cappella di Villa Ricucci (18th century)

The woman was likely Lorenza Sebasti’s grandmother and five years ago I recounted the story for her when Lorenza was pouring Ama’s wines at their Ontario agent Halpern’s annual grand tasting. Her name was Ermellina, Lorenza’s nana that she called Mami. She could perhaps have been the fattoressa, or agente fondinario, land agent to the hamlet of Ama which takes its name from a small borgo, or agricultural village, nestled in the Gaiole hills at an altitude of almost 500 metres. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. “The road from Radda leads to Amma, three miles away on a hill and home to the Pianigiani, Ricucci and Montigiani – the most prominent families in Chianti,” wrote Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine in his 18th-century Report on the government of Tuscany.

The winery was founded in the 1970s by a group of Roman families; Tradico, Carini, Cavanna and Sebasti and in the 1980s Lorenza’s husband Marco Pallanti, a Tuscan, took over the winemaking duties. Pallanti is a former President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and the pioneer who undertook one of the most ambitious vineyard transformations in the region’s history during a five-year period in the 1980s when he chose to re-trellis 50,000 vines (planted to 2,800 vines per hectare) to an open lyre system. Much of the vineyards were also grafted to new sangiovese clones and other beneficial varieties (like merlot) to take advantage of Ama’s specific topography and singular geology.

Carlos Garaicoa, Yo no quiero ver mas a mis vecinos

Castello di Ama’s 80 hectares of vineyards surround the hamlet of Ama by an extended radius of three kilometres at altitudes ranging from 450 to 550 metres above sea level. The four valleys are marked by harvested Galestro rock at the top of each vineyard; Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Bellavista stands apart because set atop that hill at an altitude of 490m is the block that is used to make L’Apparita, Tuscany’s first pure varietal merlot. In 1975 this portion was planted with canaiolo and malvasia bianca, then grafted over with merlot clone 342 between 1982 and 1985.

Kendell Geers, Revolution/Love

The village of Ama is made up of aggregate buildings of medieval origin, along the axis of a main street and essentially protected by two villas on either end; Ricucci and Pianigiani. There are three small chapels, one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmine, at the Villa Pianigiani. The second, along the main street, is dedicated to San Lorenzo and the third, dedicated to San Venazio, in the garden of Villa Riccucci.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, L’albero di Ama

Marco Pallanti is proud of the more than 35 years of work and adventure he has poured heart, mind and soul into the purity of these Gaiole hills. “It is important for wines to maintain a link to their place of origin” he writes. “The fundamental idea of tasting a wine and displaying the vines from which it comes. Wine has to spring from the rocks of the vineyard and reflect the sun, the season, the heavens of that hill, in that moment.” Pallanti’s notion of connecting the past, in viticulture, viniculture and architecture with the future is manifested through 15 art installations on or abutting vineyards, set into landscapes and occupying cellar spaces. “To give the illusion of being able to perfect perfection,” he expounds from grape and through the intangible gift, to “make seen what cannot be seen.”

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, The Observer

The 15 site-specific installations are a collection of explicitly contemporary works still in progress, all created to marry place and idea. The artists commissioned and represented are Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Giulio Paolini, Kendell Geers, Anish Kapoors, Chen Zhen, Carlos Garaicoa, Louise Bourgeois, Cristina Iglesias, Nedko Solakov, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Pascal-Martine Tayou, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan and Roni Horn.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Confession of Zero

Once inside the tasting room at Castello di Ama Marco led John Szabo M.S. and I through the estate wines, focusing as we should on the four vineyards, Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Here are my reviews on the six wines tasted.

Marco Pallanti, Godello and John Szabo M.S.

Castello di Ama Purple Rosé 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $20.85, WineAlign)

Bottled recently, going to market on March 1st, this is sangiovese with a minor amount of merlot, a new Rosato for Ama, really fruity, of an amazing colour, viscous, spicy, tart and so bloody delicious. Savoury and herbal moments but always that return to fruit. A touch of citrus pith and tonic mark the finish. Very fresh and spirited Rosé and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to drink two glasses. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018

Roni Horn, Untitled

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The artist now known simply as “Ama” is a highly touted, self-reflective sangiovese with fruit to end all fruit, every iota of sensory and sensual fibre filled in and a deeply inward, charted impression. The first vintage was 2010, when Gran Selezione began its newly classified journey, so this is the sixth instalment in the Ama new age. The Chianti Classico equivalent of a Bordeaux Château’s estate wine, the one to explain the house style and philosophy. Needs three more years to develop all its charms and move to the next stage of its life. There are 90,000-100,000 bottles produced.  Last tasted February 2018.

“The road from Radda leads to Amma,” where some of Chianti Classico’s most fertile land treats sangiovese vines as if they were planted in a garden. Hard not to experience this Gaiole Chianti Classico as a sangiovese of extreme youth for a quick to bottle Ama, so floral and what just has to be so as a result of some whole cluster, feigning carbonic and hyperbole of managed freshness. Some exotic spice in perfume and real, certain, credible clarity. Not that this will entertain notions of Ama longevity but the purity clarifies the 2015 vintage position of consumer and critical mass quality. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Questa non è una finestra, @castellodiama an instrument through which something is represented. #danielburen #chianticlassico #landscapepainting … Daniel Buren, Sulle vine punti di vista

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Lorenzo is not actually a single-vineyard wine though the fruit source depends highly on this side of the estate. It is in fact a blend of all the best places of the property and from a vintage out of which no La Casuccia or Bellavista were made all the best fruit (including some merlot) ended up in San Lorenzo. The quality of the acidity and the tannin separate this from Ama but that wine’s pedigree should not be in question for it remains the broadest, most appropriate brushstroke for Ama. San Lorenzo delivers a domino structure, stacked and yet imagined as fallen, a set of roads and walls to walk and climb along, to eventually arrive at a pre-destined destination. This is the white meets grey meets sandy brown limestone of the broad amalgamation of the mineral estate, salty and rich, with depth into a grotto.  Last tasted February 2018.

Even with the benevolent San Lorenzo as the sample size, going at 2014 Gran Selezione is like trying to crack a walnut shell with your teeth, the husk so tough you might break two or more trying. What is noted in the single-vineyard San Lorenzo is a hyperbole of 2014’s general characteristics; firm grip, savour, herbology and liqueur. There is extreme Gran Selezione personality humming in San Lorenzo and help me if two years are needed simply for assessment and five for the drinking window to open. The attention to soil and Ama’s prized Gaiole in Chianti Climat is duly noted, as is the careful selection from the vintage. I will say this. No amount of selection, barrel or time can allow Gran Selezione to escape from 2014. In the short term it will be a downfall, in the long, long, long run a blessing. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

You just have to stand and gaze out over said vineyard to feel the awe and then to understand its connection, for Castello di Ama, to the Gran Selezione category. The rise up to and astride the estate is a collina rocciosa so singular to Gaiole in Chianti. If it is not correct to intuit, self-convince and deduce that Bellavista just tastes like the salty, calcareous and deeply stony white rocks of that blinding light vineyard then so be it. The wine is saturated beyond imagination and without any possibility of feeling chalky on the palate. If this isn’t Grand Cru Chambertin or Montrachet in red, Chianti Classico form, then no wine in Toscana can be considered as such. That it also carries in pocket the great ripeness of sangiovese fruit, streamlined acidity and mille-feuille tannin is a variegation of thought to consider at every smell, taste and turn. Just amazing for the vintage with non-aggressive though confident tenets of structure. A Gran Selezione generally in production of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Giulio Paolini, Pardigma

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto La Casuccia 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Vigneto La Casuccia is a vineyard with different qualities in the stones of the soil and with malvasia nera accumulating another level of spice, even spicy when you taste. The sangiovese nose is deeper in fruit, bricks baked in and in emission of a graphite sensation, with more and differing effects brought on by limestone, though in apposite effect by the Galestro of Bellavista. The acidity is even more striking than what is derived from the adjacent block and the tannin stronger, broader, more obvious though never over-demanding. If apprised in the poetic terms of a haiku, this may deal in the facile of a read while mired in the inability to ascertain ultimate meaning. We’re only in the first incomplete five words at this stage and it will be five more years before we can say the next seven will even enter the discussion. So be patient. As with the Gran Selezione Bellavista the production is generally in the range of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Anish Kapoor, aima

Castello di Ama L’Apparita 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Castello di Ama L’Apparita IGT Toscana is merlot from atop the Bellavista hill and you just might see an apparition if you wander the rows in the dead of night. In reality, on a clear day when happening upon the vineyard, this is the spot from which the towers of Siena will appear. The first L’Apparita was 1985 so it is this 27th from 2013, with only 2002 and 2012 having been avoided. Merlot ripens earlier than sangiovese so it can be made more often. You recognize it as merlot, not Pomerol, not St. Emilion, not Maremma, but purely from this territory. The quality of acidity is vineyard-terroir driven and the tannins are sweet, plush and broad, different from Casuccia but sill set upon wide-developed shoulders. There is that ubiquitous Ama spice and in L’Apparita, a sense that tar is a factor and roses a quotient down the road. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Rancia Vineyard at Fèlsina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico

Two weeks from today I will make my way back to Toscana for another week-long immersion into all things sangiovese. More to the apposite point is a furthered plan for thorough if recondite excavations into the stone-cold secrets of Galestro, Alberese and other stratified limestone soils in Chianti Classico’s sub-zones. The preoccupation concerns communes, an instinct to break down the greater territory into its parts and a continued look at fissures and faults underfoot. It’s a matter of deeper understanding and meaning.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Once again I am proud to be a messenger on a subject that continues to write itself. This is the fourth edition in an ongoing series meant to encompass and expand upon definable territories in the municipalities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. This report is a by-product of the generous work and spirit of Chianti Classico’s producers and with unwavering guidance from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico: President Sergio Zingarelli, PR & Communications Manager Silvia Fiorentini, Event Manager Christine Lechner and Caterina Mori, Marketing and Communications.

Look Ma, I’m on top of the #chianticlassico #albarese at Tenuta Mocenni, Bindi Sergardi

I’ve come to consider Castelnuovo Berardenga the outlier for Chianti Classico, not for being so unlike the other constituents but because of its location and size. As the largest of the communes it covers 177 square kilometres while only Greve and its 169 square kilometres comes close in total area. When you drive out from Siena or Castellina the approach is most efficiently taken along highways and larger roads. This in great contrast to the switchback and zig-zagging over winding roads connecting proximate sub-zones like Radda, Gaiole, Greve, Panzano and Castellina. Castelnuovo Berardenga also forms much of Chianti Classico’s southern border and there is this particularly striking contrast between its hills and soils in opposition to the ulterior geography and geology of Chianti Colli Senesi below. There is also a feeling of the great wide open, of vast expanses and a great big sky.

All aboard the Alberese with the intrepid Brad Royale

Related – Castellina in golden light

A little bit of history. Berardenga took its district name from the noble Frankish Berardo who lived in the second half of the 10th century. His lineage follows that of Guinigi, Count of Sienna. The family Berardenga reigned over a vast area of the eastern part of the territories of Sienna (Terra Berardinga) between the 10th and 13th centuries. In 1366 the government of Sienna decided to construct the castle of Castelnuovo in the centre in this important territory. It was soon assaulted by the Florentine army but not successful until 1554 with the annexation of all the Sienna territories to the Duchy of the Medici. Montaperti in the municipality of Castelnuovo was the theatre of the battle of  September 4th, 1260 which saw the victory of the Sienna Ghibellines over the Florentine troops and their Guelph allies.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S. at Villa a Sesta. The Italian job or TJ Hooker?

Today there are 54 estates (out of 580 total members) in the district, a number that is surprisingly small when you consider the vastness of the territory. Castelnuovo Berardenga is the commune with sweeping vistas, views of Siena’s towers in the distance and with crests of hills that on some mornings sit perched above the clouds. It’s a very powerful landscape with a tremendous amount of wind, less shelter than most and a place you often feel small and vulnerable to the elements and the power of the place. It’s also home to some of the most impressive Galestro and Alberese soils in all of Chianti Classico. In Castelnuovo Berardenga, even the size of these limestone variant boulders seem bigger.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

I’ve been extremely fortunate to pay some unforgettable visits to estates in Castelnuovo Berardenga in the recent past, including Losi Querciavalle with Valeria and Pietro Losi and twice with Andrea Bianchi Bandinelli at Villa di Geggiano. On my most recent trip back in September 2017 I was joined by John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale and Steven Robinson for three calls within the district. I tasted and reviewed 21 wines at Bindi Sergardi, Fèlsina and Villa a Sesta. Here are the notes.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi introduces the Mocceni Estate

Bindi Sergardi

A family run business for 23 generations, the estate has long been in the hands of Nicolò Casini, grandson of Elisabetta Bindi Sergardi. It is his daughter Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi’s turn, after joining in 2005, she now leads the company into the future. The Mocenni Estate near Vagliagli is without exception one of the most beautiful spots in Castelnuovo Berardenga but there are so many others reasons to say it too occupies a place at the breathtaking locus pinnacle for all of Chianti Classico. What transpires in the aura and sphere of a Bindi Sergardi visit is memorable. First a pause on the road to stand amidst the wild fennel, above the clouds and gaze out towards Siena’s spires in the deep distance. Then a walk in La Ghirlanda Vineyard with the Alberese, Galestro and the sirenic Bindi Sergardi in disssertative delivery on history, change and expectation. Finally a tasting through these wines of fineness, harmony and passion with Alessandra and Giulia Bernini.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Ghirlanda makes reference to the woods “the shape of a garland,” in a CC of 100 per cent sangiovese (and the first as such for the estate). This is a form of the purest vineyard expression, a vintage “da manuale,” a vineyard in the amphitheatre, from part organic and part inorganic plots, halfway up the slopes above the Riserva and below the Gran Selezione. Serves memory with clarity in vision, impossibly old school but bright as a passage through the portico into the future could possibly be. These cherries are not only ripe, they are in phenolic harmony. Tannins are so refined on the heels of just as fine acidity. In terms of élévage it was 50 per cent in third passage barriques, plus 50 per cent in cement and/or stainless steel. Only botti grandi will be employed going forward. La Ghirlanda is highly composed, cultured and of calm demeanour in Chianti Classico. The price is approximately $20 US. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @BindiSergardi  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi  @bindisergardi  bindisergardi

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The dark fruit and ripe black cherry with fine acidity and now more vibrant than memory serves from February. Really juicy and forward, a modern sangiovese in retro clothing. It has brightened and improved so will likely age much longer than previously thought. Drink 2017-2022.  Last tasted September 2017

The Castelnuovo Berardenga Ghirlanda vineyard is found on the Mocenni estate, near Vagliagli. The modern palate in search of Riserva in Chianti Classico will want this, of extraction and compression, not to mention density and a sweeping vat of deep black cherry liqueur. A nice mineral streak comes from soil rich in galestro and alberese at 450 meters. in the shadow of Monteriggioni. It’s tart and tannic but of tannins that are already fully engaged, chalky and established in their grip. It’s all in there now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Calidonia is Castelnuovo Berardenga CCR from the Vigneto della Signora Chiara on the Mocenni estate near Vagliagli.
The terrain is rich in galestro and albarese stones at an altitude of 450m, a room with a view of the towers and spires of Siena in the distance. The Albarese and Galestro stones variegated into one-third each sand, clay and silt keep the sangiovese faith from what was one of the coldest vintages of the past 20 years. So much rain, especially in June and so this carries higher acidity and tough, fresh tannins, especially for Riserva quality. Here the truer originality of older schooling shows through but again with forward thinking clarity and understanding of a plant’s vegetative cycle. The south exposition and southerly location was a help in 2014. Remarkably a dark cherry from 2014, with depth of fruit and fineness of tannin. Some warmth for sure. Not as much of a departure from the Classica as many CC to CCRs can be. Drink this raven-haired beauty early. Would be approximately $28-32 US. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Szabo and Alberese

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia refers to the marriage of Calidonia Bindi to Sergardi, in a way to say thank you to the people who came before. This expression is so different from what’s to come later on, not quite acetic but much older schooled, with the red citrus sting and dried fruit, the tartness from acidity and the bleed from Albarese and Galestro so obvious, present and accounted for. From a low yielding vintage (which will replay in 2017), and then a real maturation shows up, with very developed grape flavours. This has entered into its drinking window. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Calidonia 2011 is the child of a vintage of few surprises, easy and regular in harvest, with some rains and cooler temperatures in September, helping to elongate maturation. Not as mature or advanced as 2011 mind you, still a bit reductive and even showing some volatility but it really opens with some proper agitation. Quite smooth and yet bright, even tight, tannins present and speaking with an authoritative voice. This will live much longer. Very composed Chianti Classico of terrific structure. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Numero “1989” 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gran Selezione Numero ‘1989’ is consistently 100 per cent sangiovese and here we are in wholly, truly, inexorably inorganic, fully stony soil, from vines planted in 1998. There is this composure and this understanding in Gran Selezione that is at the top of the pyramid chart, a fineness of tannic structure, a roundness of acidity and a perpetual motive and emotive fruit that will not give up or in. This is the Bindi Sergardi expression, sultry and offers up every reason to believe in the category. This is the GS that tells us why and how the top of the quality pyramid begins to be explained, with intrinsic value and great confidence from this 2013 vintage. Approx. $58-62 US. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Numero “1989” 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bindi Sergardi’s Numero ‘1989’ 2011 is a statuesque sangiovese, cemented in stone, built upon a foundation of Galestro and Albarese. When the possibility of the Gran Selezione category came along it became the perfect dress for a wine that used to be an IGT. The age is a part of it but there is more red citrus, high acidity and rusticity in this sangiovese. The tannin structure is consistent with the later 2013 but this certainly feels like it’s from another era. The window is now and will persist for another three to five years. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bella mattina @felsinawines

Fèlsina

In the spectrum of “winery tours” there are few that can match the breadth of Fèlsina. In May of 2017 I was fortunate to break bread in Toronto with Fèlsina’s Giovanni Poggiali, oldest of Giuseppe’s three sons and current leader of the thousand year-old estate. Arguably the most famous and influential of Castelnuovo Berardenga’s wineries, it is here that many sangiovese clones and rootstocks have been developed, allowing them “to have an infinite palette of nuances and possibilities, much like a painter has infinite shades to work with.” Fèlsina is one of Chianti Classico’s great sangiovese innovators and champions. As Fèlsina goes, so goes Castelnuovo Berardenga and Chianti Classico. Our visit was led by Export Manager Chiara Leonini. A four-wheel trek through the vineyards up to Rancia. A walk through the appassitoio where grapes lay drying to make Vin Santo. A tasting through sparkling, chardonnay, Chianti Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Fontalloro IGT.

Fèlsina Vino Spumante Di Qualità Brut Metodo Classico, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The zone of production is Chianti Classico, in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga southeast of Siena. Blended from 60 per cent sangiovese with 20 each chardonnay and pinot noir, Fèlsina’s is a gingery, yeasty, rich and textured sparkling wine, definitely not Franciacorta or anything remotely Lombardic. The time wait is 24 months on the lees and not labeled millesimato but rather non-vintage despite indeed being 100 per cent 2014 fruit. A little direct and green with early harvested sangiovese the reason but it’s been transformed in conjunction with the Champagne varietals. The fantasy to make quality sparkling wine, especially in this furthest southerly Chianti area is made into reality by the Fèlsina risk taking, culminating in such delicious and textured reward. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chardonnay I Sistri 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

The sisters is IGT Toscana chardonnay that was first made in 1997. “This is our white wine, with a little bit of history,” says Chiara Leonini, from the ancient instrument sistro, shaken with a sound dedicated to agriculture. Quite a sunshine, golden hue, buttery, almond marzipan-laden chardonnay for the undisputed lover of such a phenomenon. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (730788, $29.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2015 is forged from a selection drawn off of the eleven parcels on the estate with many soils, clones, expositions and slopes. I can’t help but look at the commune’s name Berardenga and see Fèlsina’s estate plot swept gathering as a grazing sangiovese, from the Italian “radere” or “radente.” Big and medium oak casks are used, mostly Slavonian and eight-ish months in mainly used barriques. This CC is 210 of 480,000 total bottles produced on the estate. It’s certainly not too serious, fresh as need be but still with a thick consistency and a pure, rustic edge. Carries some cure, char and corporeal reality though it’s got its number pointed towards elegance. It was not hard to make great wine in 2015 and yet so many missed the point. Not Fèlsina. This is classic and I mean classico Chianti. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (730788, $29.95, WineAlign)

Still in a closed state of restraint, demure and only now gifting dried herbs, dusty fennel and a bit of char. The time is not yet but much further away for the challenged 2014. The acidity and structure are exceptionally intertwined and it should not be forgotten that with no Rancia made in ’14 the best grapes are here and much dedication is afforded this not oft so serious wine. It’s quite serious in 2014. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (82362, $55.75, WineAlign)

The vineyard takes its name from the historic Rancia farmhouse, once a Benedictine monastery and few if any vineyards in Chianti Classico are equipped with vines as genetically predisposed as here. More recent plantings utilize DNA from massal selections gathered from the old vineyard, a decision not lost on the perpetuation of vine ancestry and classic ability. Rancia is the true Riserva, solely entrenched as such, kept safe from the temptations of Gran Selezione and always antithetical to sangiovese IGT. It’s all good in 2013 and from the stellar season comes one of CC’s most storied Riservas replete with layers of fruit from great parcels, in more wood than almost any brethren or sistren could handle and it amalgamates, integrates and ultimately transcends the sangiovese-Riserva continuum with seamless ease. The curative, hung long for slow development style brings such restrained power, exercised finesse and unbridled energy. This will live 20 years easy. These are wines of acumen and of a deep and pure understanding of sangiovese, Alberese and Galestro soil. Bravo Giovanni. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2005, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (82362, $55.75, WineAlign)

Rancia 2005 is an astute choice to follow-up the exceptional 2013, here from a warm year and it shows but it’s just as if everything has drawn further in, the fruit drying but keeping its flavour, its charm and its delicasse. The acid-tannin structure has not really changed, or so it seems because its composition was simply right and nothing seemingly can break it down. There is the secondary notion that imagines compressed and condensed balsamico but it has not yet even come close to syrup or liqueur. These sangiovese clones do not go there. It’s a special biotype and the farmers who have worked it surely have known what to do with it. “It was an ethical choice.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $208.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia 2011 is clearly designed to be different and unlike 99 per cent of the other wines in the category. Fèlsina’s shows the most restraint meets elegance in power shown by a 2011 GS, a year where big, grand, brooding and robust is usually the name of the game, order and direction. Not at Fèlsina where melting, integrating and implosive intensification is wrapped inside the great sangiovese enigma. Here the dusty, curative, floral and herbal aromas are expressive but the flavours, tannins and acidity are a kept group. The energy is controlled and the length is outstanding. “Our idea of Gran Selezione is this one,” tells Chiara Leonini. Was an IGT in 2006 and then GS in 2009. There are 3000 bottles produced, in wooden cases, kept separate and special. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Fontalloro 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

Fontalloro 2013 is not as much of a departure as most IGT, here the consistency of biotype and what you do with your exceptional grapes is followed with the same clarity, finesse and detailed instruction. The grapes come from vineyards straddling the border between Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi denomination, bringing sandy, loamy, silty with pebbles and marine sediments into the calcareous Alberese and Galestro make-up. The variegation means the broadest of sangiovese expression for Fèlsina. Marvellously rendered and structured, no holes, seamless transitions and the ease with which fine acidity and even more fineness of tannin work as one. When understanding comes freely and easy like this you know there are reasons why the sangiovese universe does sometimes align. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Tasting at Fèlsina

Villa A Sesta

Villa a Sesta, the name of the ancient Castelnuovo Berardenga village and also the winery owned by Riccardo Tattoni, Founder of CIGP Group. The hamlet lies along the provincial road that leads to Brolio in Gaiole. Until the mid ninth century it belonged to the Berardenga counts and in 1882 their estate was assigned to the San Salvatore Abbey in Campi, known as ‘della Berardenga’. Written evidence regarding the Church of Santa Maria in Villa a Sesta dates as far back as the eight century and it was once a subsidiary of the hamlet of San Felice. Our visit began with one of the greatest meals in my life time at L’Asinello Ristorante in the village of Villa a Sesta. Sales Director Franco Russo led us through mini verticals of Il Palei CC, CC Riserva and VAS IGT Toscana. We then followed to the winery for some barrel sample tastings with Technical Director Roberto Ciani.

Tasting through Villa a Sesta

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Il Palei, perhaps translated as the “ancient geological one” is 100 per cent sangiovese and nosing it side by side with ’13 the similarity is quite striking. Dusty fennel pollen and also the earth and stone, friable, crumbled in the air. Tart and black cherry flavours dominate. Shows off the work of the enologist Marco Mazzarrini from Alto Adige who toiled in the Bolgheri and began working with Villa a Sesta in 2011, so now there is a lighter, less pressed, more floral (here violets) perfume. Here in the southeast butterfly wing of the Castelnuovo Beradenga territory. Opens with time and develops more charm, character and length. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana # 7- L’Asinello Ristorante’s Tarragon pesto risotto con funghi porcini

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013 shows the same dusty reserve as ’14 and is not so giving, especially for the vintage. A bit more compressed, even a bit more pressed and intense, from sites at 450m with Galestro in the soil. There is a calm about it even while the intensity climbs but there is not much fruit because of so many early immovable parts. Plenty of stone and earth but the fruit is hidden away. Yet there is a lightness and a brightness, hard to explain but there. Also like ’14 opens after some time, with near secondary notes on the precipice. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Villa a Sesta’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 is a great example of the conundrum in some 13s, acting quite reserved (as per the house style) but also quite dramatic and volatile, yet miles from reductive. Tart red citrus meets currants and pomegranate on the direct attitude of the palate, with etches of dark black fruit and yet there are these hidden aromatic violets hiding in the wings. Waiting on integration and fleshing would be a smart move. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #8 – L’Asinello Ristorante’s Nastri di cioccolato, gel di zafferano e mango

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 is the richer of the two (tasted side by side with 2013) for sure. Still there is the dark black cherry fruit and violet aromatic undertones, also the one pressed deeper and with the wood felt stronger, though with less vintage-determined volatile behaviour it comes by this character honestly. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Godello with L’Asinello Chef Senio Venturi and Elisa Bianchini

Villa A Sesta VAS 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Vas Toscana IGT 2013, as in Villa a Sesta, here clearly modern, with what just has to be cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It’s flat-out juicy, Cassis and mulberry laden, yeah, so juicy from wild berry flavours. Just a touch more cabernet is would seem (maybe 60 per cent), internationally styled and really clean, transparent even and did I say juicy? Spent 18 months in barriques but it’s not woody whatsoever. Turns on an about-face dime away from the sangiovese as much as any estate thus far but in the finest possible way. It is not possible not to find some enjoyment in this wine, even while it sheds or celebrates any regional character. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Villa a Sesta

Villa A Sesta VAS 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Vas Toscana IGT 2012 is quite similar to ’13 but with a slightly higher acidity and consequently more località or sense of place. It would seem that ’13 is purely a sangiovese vintage while ’12 finds a way to elevate the Bordeaux. A bit of roasted or braised meat flavour, with spice. Hard to say but that is what this wine tells us. Really shows the step up in quality with ’13. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Rancia Vineyard at Fèlsina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

No, wines do not have to be old to blow your mind but there is just something so mysterious, magical and hypnotizing about the experience of age in preservation. When we use the cliché “tasting history” it distracts from what is most poignant about tasting older wines. It’s the humbling and how wisdom, acumen and meteorological circumstance conspire to take us away from our troubles, to forget about life for a while and to realize that forces greater than us are truly in charge.

There are also young wines so precocious and wise beyond their years that they somehow intuit the future. These too can blow our minds, addle us as if lovestruck and disoriented so that only this confluence of smell, taste, texture and structure are what we know. It takes all kinds to populate a list that separates greatness from the rest, but that does not means only 17 wines were tasted to be extraordinary in 2017.  It means that some struck a vein while others grazed on the skin. Most important is that all were experienced because someone chose to share them. Thank you to the producers and the benefactors for bringing these bottles to light.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Honourable Mentions

Château Haut-Brion 1986, Saffredi 2004, Brokenwood Sémillon 2007, Domaine Gros Frères Clos Voguent Musigni 2013, M. Lapierre Morgon 2010, Domaine G. Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 1996, Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2006, Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Riserva della Famiglia 2009, Le Fraghe Bardolino 2015, Sordo Barolo Riserva Gabutti 2006, Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990, J & J Eger Kékfrankos 2006, Château Léoville Las Cases 2001, François Cotat Chavignol Sancerre Rosé 2009, Domaine La Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pâpe La Crau 2005, D’Arie Syrah 2012, Julia Bertram Handwerk Spätburgunder 2015, Planeta Carricante Eruzione 1614 2015, Dominus 1994, Château Lafite Rothschild 1998 and Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1993.

Several times a years I gather with groups of like-minded, wine-spirited folks, to break bread and to pop established icons, singular archetypes, varietal rarities and supernumerary misfits. Many of the wines on this 2017 list are a result of having been fortunate enough to be included in repeated repasts with pirates on picnics and doctors at dinner.  Most of the rest are travel related, in fact this year alone I tasted approximately 700 sangiovese, 200 barbera, 200 corvina and 100 nebbiolo. So many more of those praiseworthy reds and rosés deserved spots on this docket but alas, the list is short. I do not fulminate them, nor you neither. Here are Godello’s 17 mind-blowing wines of 2017.

It began like this and I got 15 dollars hid above the stove.

Möet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut Champagne 1990, Champagne, France (280461, AgentWineAlign)

Tasted blind the hue immediately leads the mind in one of two directions; hot vintage or decades of age. I’m tempted to consider a combination of the two, so the decision is warm vintage and a minimum of twenty years age. Further introspection takes me back to 1990 and when the reveal confirms this and in the abide of Dom Pérignon it means one thing. Start the process of thinking again. This wine has done its work, having accumulated a diverse set of developmental traits and processed them so that the language it now speaks is clear and pure. At 27 years of age it’s delicate, smooth, soft-spoken and settled. The finest golden toast (again in hue and more importantly in aroma) glows into the creamy texture, like preserved lemon transformed into gelid curd. The mouthfeel is exceptional with baking bread rising, puffy and satiny glazed across the palate. The seamlessness of this Champagne seeks, solicits and makes rendezvous with no peer or challenger its equivalent, not should any comparison be made. Kudos to a wine that stands on its own and makes you feel this good. It will continue to do so up to and perhaps beyond its 40th birthday. Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted March 2017  moetchandon  @chartonhobbs  @MoetUSA  @ChartonHobbs  @Champagne  Moët & Chandon  Charton Hobbs Canada  Champagne

Famille Picard Saint Aubin Premier Cru Le Charmois 2014, AOC Bourgogne (522078, $57.95, WineAlign)

This is a chardonnay to place the village of Saint Aubin in a remarkable light if only because it’s the most stony, flinty and tightly wound example just about ever. The Charmois is the elevator that carries the appellation into a purity of climat for Bourgogne Premier Cru. In this case terroir delivers the idea of Climat but it is the interaction of the maker that defines the notion simply because there is no mess and no fuss. It just feels like drinking straight from a bleed of the calcareous land, as might happen in a limestone goblet filled with Montrachet. You have no idea how good a deal this is from the most excellent 2014 vintage. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2017  domainesfamillepicard  profilewinegroup  #bourgognewines #FamillePicard  @ProfileWineGrp  @BourgogneWines  Domaines Famille Picard  Profile Wine Group  Bourgogne Wines

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $480.00 WineAlign)

Chevalier-Montrachet is a matter of aromatics, of the finest of the finest, preserved, reserved, impressionable and of quietly powerful impression. The deistic and the parrhesiastic are reached in this Grand Cru, “one who speaks the truth to power.” Elysium in chardonnay is captured for the perfectly ripe orchard and crushed stones. The young palate is almost severe but takes its first steps down the most ethereal path, with the finest drawn lines and rendered streaks of energy lit, sparked and smouldering. This is Bourgogne of intrinsic value, slowly rising to a crescendo where a flame flickers but within the sheltered lamp of a hurricane. How is such harnessed power even possible? Only like this, in Chevalier-Montrachet . Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted April 2017  bouchardpereetfils  woodmanws  vinsdebourgogne  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS  @VinsdeBourgogne  Bouchard Père & Fils  Woodman Wines & Spirits  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, Santorini, Greece (SAQ 11814421WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  winesofgreece  domainesigalas  @MajesticWineInc  @DrinkGreekWine  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou  Wines of Greece

Penfolds Grange 2011, South Australia (356121, $750.00, WineAlign)

There is just something about cool, rainy and irreconcilably regarded vintages that brings out the best in wines made by winemakers of elite acumen. Deliver your best from the greatest of harvests but also “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Leave the middle of the road to someone else. This Grange faced adversity and won. The yields and output may only be 50 per cent of normal but what gives is the silky texture of Grand Cru Bourgogne. This chosen one of singular vision to represent the multi-tiered and faceted Penfolds Estate tells us about the world inhabited by the instinctual and the ethereal. It combines tannin, structure and aesthetic deeply engrossed in the shadow of its own looming destruction, but is designed from the first with an eye to its later existence as a ruin, forever preserved. If a perfect plum and a magical olive were crossed they would welcome this collective spice of no equal. The quality of bite and chew lead to rumination and the savour rests on a chart clearly defined but in high contrast and only to itself. An analgeisc meets hypnotic cooling is mentholated though if not specific in origin it is only and highly natural. Legendary vintage? Why not. This calm, cool and collected 2011 may just outlast some of the more recently considered top vintages of ’06, ’08 and ’10. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017  penfolds  markanthonyon  wineaustralia  @penfolds  @MarkAnthonyWine  @Wine_Australia  Penfolds  @MarkAnthonyWine  Wine Australia

A deep #eredichiappone vertical delve with Daniele for perspective and a release of endorphins @ilNizza possibilities #progrettovini #collisionimonferrato

Erede Di Chiappone Armando Barbera D’asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2006, Piedmont, Italy (WineAlign)

RU by Daniele Chiappone is this, at first something altogether inexplicable but when tasted alongside his 2005, 2010 and 2011 it makes such perfect sense. Sense in where this fits in his evolution and to speak on behalf of the age-worthy ability of Nizza barbera. In a world where barbera perfume so often performs with perfunctory brevity this goes on and on. It is a unique combination of fennel frond, incense, hibiscus and violet to create an intoxicant and an anaesthetic. Yet another exceptional vintage is revealed, traditional and so alive, spun from earth crusting over cherry and then this smooth leather. The portal backwards 10 years allows for looks forward 10 more, especially into what’s coming from 2015 and 2016. To say the match with a prodigiously spiced in aromatic ragu over linguine was agreeable would be the understatement of the Monferrato century. Perfectly timed acidity seals the deal. This is barbera folks, of wit, age and history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  erededi  ilnizza  @erededi  @ilNizza  Erede Di Chiappone Armando  IlNizza

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard 1999, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

This from a time when Mondavi labeled the reserve cabernet sauvignon as “To Kalon Vineyard,” a moniker of essential meaning that would return 14 years later on the 2013 bottle. If this were what Mark de Vere referred to as “a confusing moment in history” I could not say but “this strange bottling” provided an unequivocal and seminal turning point in this wine’s storied past, present and future. It was in fact a small, special cuvée, a little bit different than the ’99 Reserve. “The coolest vintage on record, until it wasn’t,” because of a warm period at the end of summer and early fall that ushered forth a certain, singular sort of ripeness. Regardless of memories, characterizations and twists of fate, this single-vineyard cabernet is as finessed, focused and precise as any Mondavi Reserve. It persists chalky, fine and gritty in tannin running amok, dragging the acidity forward and around. The workout is something to behold, a dispatch of late Napa fashion and never more successful than right here. The dépêche mode of To Kalon is by now famous but culminated with this ’99 for everything to follow, with consistency and a guarantee of modern quality. Listen to it croon “try walking in my shoes.” Many have and many continue to pay homage to this Napa Valley originator and pioneer. It’s a cabernet sauvignon of faith and devotion. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017  robertmondavi  @RobertMondavi  Robert Mondavi Winery

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Columbia Valley, Washington (Agent, WineAlign)

A truly remarkable nose, notably violets and peregrine species of spices. There is so much perfume and beauty, an Aishwarya Rai Bachchan nose and then there is the fruit. Blackberry, Cassis then into vanilla, scented happiness like ruby red grapefruit and bergamot. If it should have aged I can’t say but it’s still a voluminous and voluptuous thing to sip. It blinds like first Growth Bordeaux with its perfect extraction. Thoughts keep at it, to blueberries, cigar box and Kirsch. The tannins are sweet and gritty, not fully resolved and imagine Margaux. You could consider taking out a mortgage on yours and your neighbour’s house for this one. It was one of many great reds tonight but I’ve just tasted this. And I wept. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @QuilCreekWinery  @thevineagency  winesofwashington  wa_state_wine  @QuilCreekWinery  @TheVine_RobGroh  Quilceda Creek Vintners  @WINESofWA  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  Washington State Wine

A great honour to taste this 1995 #carobbio #leone and in memory of #carlonovarese Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years #toscana #sangiovese

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 1995, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Leone 1995 was made under the auspices of the Vittorio Fiore-Gabriella Tani oenology stylistic for Carlo Novarese. To say that this single-vineyard sangiovese is youthful would be the biggest IGT understatement of the century. From vines that at the time were 25 years-old, Leone is not just a survivor of a universally-declared incredible vintage, it is a singular expression from 1990’s Tuscany, in Chianti Classico and for Panzano. The violets, dried espresso and plum-amaretti semifreddo (savoury, not sweet) mixes with fennel frond, fresh rosemary and the 20-plus years lingering Carobbio tobacco. The acidity is fully intact, still travelling up and down the sides of the tongue, repeatedly and soliciting so much savour, sapidity, a desire for a mouthful of hematic, rare sear of Claudia’s beef filet and then more and more sipping. After 20 minutes the aromatics deliver a raspberry purée and even a black olive and mineral-saline, short of briny caper into the fray by stroke of some aromatic brush and bush in the light afternoon wind. That’s enough. I’m not sure my heart can take any more. Time for Vin Santo. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted February 2017  carobbio_wine  chianticlassico  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @chianticlassico  Tenuta Carobbio  Chianti Classico

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1986, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Flaccianello in 1986 is actually though not surprisingly so different from Vigna del Sorbo, more than any other reason because of the cabernet sauvignon, but in a more philosophical way, because they have built a paradox, from the Super Tuscan ideal in revolution. Now the sangiovese going forward will be the most important and also the best wine, like looking back at this 1986, OK, not better than Sorbo but purer, honest, a clearer picture from which to learn from and ultimately a model for the future. Beautiful power, restraint, structure and yes, the kind of wine that deserves to be praised with the term elegance, overused, or not. Perfectly rustic, earthy and full of fruit with its accompanying complimentary, enervating and necessary acidity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017  Fontodi  chianticlassico    @chianticlassico  Chianti Classico  Az. Agr. Fontodi

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  brunellodimontalcino  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  @ConsBrunello  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce  Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 1998, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $364.95, WineAlign)

Clos de La Roche 1998 may be 19 years old but you have to swirl the britches out of this Grand Cru because reduction persists in its make-up. Once you work your way over the wall a field of wildflowers and a roses bouquet lays out as far as the nose can mind’s eye. This is pure candy in its most arid, blessed and gout de terroir way. It is as charming as Burgundy can be and yet so fine of tannin, tight and duplicitously-grained in clone upon itself. One of those wines so difficult to put to words because it teaches and you can do nothing but listen. I’d still want to wait two more years, maybe more, before knowing I’ve waited long enough. Close de la Roche speaks to me but to answer with any real credibility and respect I will need to think some more. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  domaine_de_bellene  nicholaspearcewines  vinsdebourgogne  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_  @VinsdeBourgogne  Bellene  Nicholas Pearce  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

Meerlust Rubicon 1984, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. Rubicon 1984 is poured (with brilliant decision making) from magnum and is therefore fresher than the 1996 with an incredibly controlled level of fineness in tannin, from acidity and at the threshold of understood volatility. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood,” like this early Rubicon. The future of Meerlust is foretold with Orwellian transparency, bold honesty and expert ability. “Who controls the past controls the future.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  meerlustwine  wosa_za  wosa_ca  liffordgram  @MeerlustWine  @LiffordON  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  MEERLUST ESTATE  Lifford Wine and Spirits  Wines of South Africa

Boscarelli Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Boscarelli acts like a much younger Nobile, from an exceptional vintage and a producer way ahead of its time. The key is to decide which side of the evolutionary fence we’re on, closer to that 1967 from Contucci or to what is happening today. This may actually be the turning point for Vino Nobile because it really has one foot entrenched in each world. Very much in the mushroom and truffle aromatic atmosphere, where sangiovese should feel free and comfortable to travel in the twilight of its golden years. This is beautiful, with some dark fruit persisting and acidity still in charge. You can imagine the old tannins but they no longer make any demands. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #PoderiBoscarelli  lucadeferrarildf  artisanal_wine_imports  consorzionobile  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Antichi Poderi Dei Marchesi Di Barolo Gia’ Opera Pia Barolo 1958, Piedmont, Italy (WineAlign)

Poured by Ernesto Abbona on his wife Anna’s birthday, a ’58 at the ripe old age of 58 (though it will turn 59 later this year). Simply, in the words of the Abbona family, “a special evening, special friends, special vintage,” with a cork that looks as good as new, though Ernesto takes great time and care in its extraction. The aromas are blessed of a collective umami but would better be served by a new descriptor because they are antediluvian and impossibly preserved. Forget mushrooms and truffles. These scents are brand new, with no truly identifiable frame of reference, as if plucked from some guise of Eden where never before tasted dark berries fall effortlessly into the hand off of gariga savoury-scented bushes, brambly and crawling intertwined with nasturtium on a composting forest floor. The 1958 was and still is a nebbiolo of struttura, of a fibra morale that tells a story of consistency and longevity. With air it became more complex if deeper and turbido. That this magical nebbiolo from another era hovered in the lasting air of a 30 minute long ethereal says that you could open a few more but perhaps not much beyond its 60th birthday. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  marchesibarolo  majesticwinesinc  @MarchesiBarolo  @MajesticWineInc  @marchesibarolo  Majestic Wine Cellars

The mythology of #thorle #riesling in Beerenauslese and Trockenbetenauslese #weingutthörle #gabsheim #rheinhessen #holle

Thörle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Hölle TBA 2011 is a minuscule 180 bottle single-vineyard production and the vintage was simply perfect for the effort. The process involved the collection of a few berries at a time over the course of three weeks, started in the fridge and was then pressed when the amount of approximately 100L could be obtained. “This is the king’s discipline for creating such a riesling” explains Christoph Thörle. Thick like honey, full of unctuousness and viscosity. It is expressly noticed how the colour and the development have not advanced considering the six year mean. The exoticism is what separates this, with fruits far east, creamy and perfectly easy to assimilate, in flavour, consistency and understanding. Sweet herbology, of thai basil and thyme and candied mandarin rind. Here, a piece of history and legacy from Christoph and Johannes. Drink 2021-2041.  Tasted March 2017  thorle_c  thorleestatewinery  univinscanada  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling

Will be a top ’17 from 2017 #louisguntrum #1976 @weininstitut #rieslingauslese #niersteiner #heiligen #nierstein #niersteinamrhein #roterhang

Weingut Louis Guntrum Riesling Auslese Niersteiner Heilibengaum 1976, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

“Roter Hang is a geological statement” says Louis Konstantin Guntrum. If you want to hang around and try to understand its red soils and friable limestone fettle it requires a focused state of mind. Guntrum introduces this 1976 by saying “it’s a young guy, 40 years old,” the same thing he could have said years ago about a 1917 Roter Hang Riesling. The comparative studies is a matter of perspective, a theory of relativity, in reduction, colour, drama, florality and fabulousness. While certain vintages and specific wines will blow you away more than others there is something to be said about older just being more interesting, whether 1917, 1976 or whatever back vintage you want to try your luck with. It’s simply remarkable and crazy how sugar and acidity can preserve riesling like this, especially and/or truly withstanding the Roter Hang. The honey and candied orange blossom are so prevalent but it almost seems dry (relatively speaking) even though 100 grams or more of sugar have driven this wine. Beauty from bitter phenols blend with lanolin, paraffin, ginger and ginseng. Keep returning for 15 more years. Drink 2017-2031.  Tasted March 2017  #louisguntrum  @weininstitut  wines_of_germany  @LouisGuntrum  @WinesofGermany  Weingut Louis Guntrum  German Wine Institute i.e. Wines of Germany

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Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

 

Three estates, 23 wines, one agent

Back in April of 2017 I walked into Canoe Restaurant on the 54th Floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre to taste the Henriot Family wines of Villa Ponciago, Domaine William Fèvre and Bouchard Père & Fils. This tasting hosted by Woodman Wines and Spirits is more than just an annual highlight, it is an event borne of necessity for a multiple of triumvirate reasons. Gamay, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Beaujolais, Chablis-Bourgogne and Bourgogne; Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru; Fleurie, Chablis and Les Côtes, d’Or and Chalonnaise; Climat, Climat and Climat. If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between producer, Village and Climat then you cannot miss such an opportunity.

Related – Bourgogne in a word: Climat

The vintage may have been one borne out of sunshine and the wines are unquestionably rich. From a vantage point of precision and structure they may not be as stubborn, focused and direct as 2014 but they hold a famous adage accountable to its meaning. No wine can truly be great if it does not taste that way from the very beginning. Fruit must be there from the start. It will not later be found. These are the 2015 Beaujolais and Bourgogne as exemplified by these three categorical producers.  I would have liked to taste all 33 wines on offer that day but time constraints for one got in the way, not to mention this tasting is so popular amongst the media and trade in Toronto so several of the wines were drained before I could get to them. Nevertheless I did manage to squeeze 23 concentrated sessions into a 90 minute time slot and these are my notes. Thank you as always to Russell, Jason and Rachel Woodman.

Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie 2015, AOC Beaujolais, France (Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Been waiting for 2015 to come along for Ponciago’s no pain Fleurie la Réserve, a gamay always firm but now of fruit like compound berry butter from the giving vintage. Now with more black cherry than almost ever, or at least in recent memory, the tart compressed, compounded too but variegated mille feuille-like so not really tart at all. No war of juicy versus grippy so “I resist what I cannot change.” Persistent as needed but not forever, so this drinkable drug is just what the Beaujolais doctor ordered. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017  chateaudeponcie  

Villa Ponciago Cuvée Les Hauts Du Py 2015, Fleurie, AOC Beaujolais, France (Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Even the generous vintage can’t distract from the quartz-lined granite bedrock of the Hauts du Puy but it does make for an intensely layered cuvée of moving parts. This 2015 is possessive of a repeatable Réserve condition but with bigger, broader and more complex dark red berries, though also here in the throes of the mineral streak of diffidence. There are few examples of Fleurie that concentrate, purify and integrate inchoate soil and munificent fruit like Les Hauts and with the vintage so forward and early expressive this is as gamey getable as there is on the market today. Pour this critical mass with reckless abandon. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2017

Unsparing and benevolent @vinsdechablis 2015s aplenty from @williamfevre_ via @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

There can be no surprise that Beauroy is broader, creamier and it can be said, fruitier than Vaillons though again, the salty earth and the ancient ocean are swirling with their liquid mineral solutions and rushing through with their waves. As Févre is so want to insist, to call to order, even in the thick brushstroke of Beauroy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017  williamfevre_chablis  woodmanws  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS  @domainewilliamfevre  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

Vaillons walks along a kimmeridgian trail with so much fruit from the elongated slope and valley in ’15. Though truth be told (winemaker) Didier Séguier has kept the fossils, salinity and direct mineral injections consistent with not only ’14 but in omniscience and with complete trust to what came before. This is not no much a piercing as it is indeed an injection. There is much to learn from how Fèvre approaches Vaillons becuase the consistency is second to none. Vintage matters less and that is the calling card of the house, at least with respect to this Premier Cru. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, AOC Bourgogne (488718, $39.95, WineAlign)

Montmains is different, that much we know but this is 2015 and no modern era vintage speaks with more fruit clarity. Still the herbology mixed into the salinity and brine consistently forms the basis for the Montmains oeuvre. What conspires from ’15 is more depth and soild tang than what comes off of the nearby hills. It’s like lime over lemon but it’s not exactly citrus that sits at the forefront, more like savoury syrup swirled in but in thick rotation at the conical bottom’s narrowing point. This is quite intense for 2015, but it is Montmains that effects this indelicacy with great presence and the most insistent Premier Cru persistence thus far. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

This Premier Cru of greatest surface is committed to by Fèvre with a singular duality, of a domaine within a domaine and as cru versus cru. The greater Fourchaume is a Grand Cru hill place of five distinct climats in which Fèvre holds blocks in Vaulorent so they bottle both it and this ubiquitous Fourchaume. Upwards of four hectares deliver a best of all Premier Cru worlds Chablis as Forchaume is gathered for a collective sumptuousness, really layered and propping up the most kimmeridgian of the line-up to date for ’15. Carries its ilk in its DNA and its expresion; compression, lemon and lime citrus, soil conditioning and the broadest yet most direct feel of appeal. If you want Fevre, 2015, Premier Cru and ancient wisdom all wrapped up in one clear package this is the bank expression for you. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $99.00, WineAlign)

Bougros, the approachable one. Bougros, with great unction and deep intensity but not hard to get. How this has gathered its sensibilities so quickly is a matter of vintage and place but there are layers, many of them, left to peel away. You get a conditioned and developed salinity meets acidity unlike any Premier Cru and yet you can’t help needing to think it should be drinkable straight away. The potential of mille-feuille layering is leaps ahead of (most but not all) of the Premier Pru. Quite domesticated Grand Cru Chablis that is easier to understand than most. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $125.00, WineAlign)

If Les Preuses isn’t the Fèvre piece, of resistance and resilience. Of memory and understanding, of formidable variegation and in ’15, teasing and tempting open doors. Don’t be fooled or duped because there are many doors and so many fences to tear down before you can find what’s behind the barriers. Intensifies in its delivery of more citrus and compressed stone clarity than Bougros (or at least with more crunch and bite) but it will take years of ruminative meal matching possibilities and execution before you might know where it stands and with it, relative to you. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre’s Les Clos takes a bit of an unexpected turn so from 2015 it currently goes stone cold and remains intensely locked. From what we know the vintage should be generous from the start but in this instance Les Clos makes use of every ounce and fibre of kimmerridgian being to lay only salt, fossil and stone before you. The fruit kept hidden away makes you pine for fleshy orchard apples. Nothing can really prepare you for the Les Clos iron gate, especially when you were expecting a welcome mat laid out at your feet. Take the time to charm and be charmed, at least 15 minutes with a glass or 15 years if you can offer up the time. The Grand Cru will slowly open up and speak in a vernacular of controlled energy, fineness of acidity and exceptional balance. This will be one for the ages.  Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Montagny Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (653683, $38.00, WineAlign)

Montagny is rich and expressive with a shot of tonic and quite the textural viscosity. A bit reductive though another six to 12 months will put it in a honeyed, waxy and preserved citrus place. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2017  bouchardpereetfils    @BouchardPere  Bouchard Père & Fils

Bouchard Père & Fils Saint Aubin Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $57.00, WineAlign)

Saint-Aubin’s proximity to Montrachet and high percentage of Premier Cru vineyards should be an automatic to elevate its esteem but it still flies under the radar. Bouchard feels otherwise and proudly boasts and toasts its ability to effect fine chardonnay. Great 2015 fruit be scorned this is a terrifically taut example but yes it is certainly fruit expressive (apples and such). In relative terms to Saint-Aubin it delivers more perceived sweetness and spice provided by the barrel in what is ostensibly and sensibly really well-intended and generous from the start. A bit of a wild child this one with plenty of upside. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Puligny Montrachet 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

It has often been said that Village level Puligny-Montrachet from top growers can be very good indeed, but is all too often unexciting and disappointing. Combine that statement with a humid 2015 vintage and you may be left to wonder what will happen from a non vineyard-specific Puligny. Bouchard’s stands firm, acts forthright and tackles the suspicion head on. This is a direct, linear, layered and unctuous P-M with layers of lemon and fresh glade air at their get me vintage finest. It’s also a wine of grace and elegance away from barrel and into something ethereal. Acidity suits the flesh, not as an injunction but as an extension and takes the fruit into a place of inflection. Such a beautiful wine. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (661322, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s Meursault Les Clous seems akin to acknowledging the ideal of Bourgogne that sit somewhere along the line between Village and Premier Cru and in this instance well right of centre on that line. Les Clous is a bit more reserved than the Puligny, not so much reductive as much as it is wrapped a bit tight. It may be construed as perhaps a bit couterintuitive to Meursault but certainly not impossible to accept. Really brings the idea of lemon curd and a melting barrel into the ideal. Needs two years to integrate and if you are patient it will reward with a comforting hug at that time. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Meursault Genevières is so much more fleshy, fruit forward, expressive and feminine than Les Clous though never straying too far from carrying a necessary liquid limestone, chalky streak through and through. The soil speaks more from the middle to the back, creating a fascinating transition for this wine. A warmth challenged vintage be anathematized this Genevières has not gone to blazes, constantly re-energizes and is built from a constitution to see it hang in for the long haul. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $141.00, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot is an intense expression of Bourgogne Premier Cru distilled into the finest, most elegant and ancient geology captured expression. The integration and balance is remarkable when you consider how Climat must contract intuition and acumen for the purpose of harnessed power and controlled energy. This is one of the major stars of the vintage. From soil to microclimate and through temperament it just has it all. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $260.00, WineAlign)

Corton Charlemagne is a thing of great opulence, not the intense and controlled energy of Chevalier-Montrachet but here strutting and the wood more apparent. The fruit component shows off more desire (like Vaudesirs in Chablis but with the volume turned way up). This affinity with Grand Cru Chablis is curious, in a way interchangeable but respectfully mutual, apparent and beneficent. The munificence of this Corton breathes to fleshy texture and from mellifluous honey and bees waxy genteel notes. Power is evident but gorgeous and together is even more so. Toasty in the end, as in the beginning, with lime in gelid curd. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $480.00, WineAlign)

Chevalier-Montrachet is a matter of aromatics, of the finest of the finest, preserved, reserved, impressionable and of quietly powerful impression. The deistic and the parrhesiastic are reached in this Grand Cru, “one who speaks the truth to power.” Elysium in chardonnay is captured for the perfectly ripe orchard and crushed stones. The young palate is almost severe but takes its first steps down the most ethereal path, with the finest drawn lines and rendered streaks of energy lit, sparked and smouldering. This is Bourgogne of intrinsic value, slowly rising to a crescendo where a flame flickers but within the sheltered lamp of a hurricane. How is such harnessed power even possible? Only like this, in Chevalier-Montrachet . Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Monthélie Les Duresses 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $57.00, WineAlign)

Monthélie is intensely floral where roses merge into violets and then strawberry melds into raspberry. Some firm grip as the Climat would suggest but it’s really quite a salvo, like shots fired into the air as an announcement of the wine’s drink early ability. Dureté could just as easily be fermeté because there is strength in trust, belief and assurance. Les Duresses brings attention to itself quite easily and with shameless selfie confidence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin 2015, AOC Bourgogne (661330, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s 2015 is incredibly forward Gevrey Chambertin, full of fruit, flowers and a beautifully integrated red liquid chalky syrup. It’s just plain getable and is the godfather to all of its peers. If you want to show the world and everyone in it who knows or knows nothing about high-level Bourgogne then perhaps consider this to be the journey’s departure point. Gevrey and especially in the hands of Bouchard is such a gate for what it means to build pinot noir from the earth upwards. It explains what needs in a language you can understand and makes an offer you can’t refuse. Pour this every day simply because it is quintessentially ripe and structured stuff. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April and November 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Chambolle Musigny 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $78.00, WineAlign)

Initial mannerisms direct the imagination to view this Chambolle Musigny as taking a turn towards a gentler version of itself. It’s quite floral and mineral with fruit the protein in between the covers. The condiments of spice, espagnole and coulis derived by that wood-soaked red fruit provide the structure. There are moments when this pinot noir seems more mineral than fruit and this equivocation will surely repeat depending on the time each one is opened but in time the genial will emerge and remain. For now the fleeting impression is of a grippy, firm, intense, citrus circus of acrobatic ability. At the finish it turns to the botanical and the tonic. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Volnay Caillerets Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $116.00, WineAlign)

Caillerets Ancient Cuvée Carnot is no young, impressionable and misunderstood bit of Bourgogne winemaking. There is DNA in this fruit that connects back 240 years to the house’s first vineyard dating to 1775. Here Volnay exhibits a substantial amount of chalky limestone swimming with variegated aggregate and firm, not quite ready to dissolve crunchy stone behaviour. Dark fruit and so much fraises de bois meets this perception brought on by mineral aromas and flavour. A bit savoury and all in for Volnay. So bloody in charge of its structure with grippy persistence. A classic Climat meets vintage of strength, courage and purpose. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $156.00, WineAlign)

When I asked Luc Bouchard which Climat most defines the notion for the estate he replied “from Bouchard estate we are very proud of the Climat of Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, monopole of Bouchard since 1791, a unique terroir with gravely soil (unique in Beaune). The roots go very deep into the soil (9m), so if we have a very dry summer there is always enough water far below and if there is heavy rain storm, the drainage is so good that the water is not directly swallowed by the grapes. That explains the consistency of the wine, it’s unique texture and ageing potential.” Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus in 2015 is the wondrous inhalant, like (dare it be said) Hermitage if it were married to Côte d’Or, of an impossible liqueur and the first to bring this truly rich 2015 element to a Bouchard pinot noir. The finest silk coats the palate and through black composure the mineral (limestone) in here will never relent and let the dark fruit take charge. This is a wine of impeccable balance and gentle, ethereal preciseness. It impresses as much as any Bourgogne will. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $180.00, WineAlign)

Le Corton the Grand Cru is a senior, most adult red of the Côte d’Or crowd, an inwardly impressing Bourgogne with more mineral limestone impression than you can bother trying to imagine settling into one bottle. This is a factor of the very top of the vineyard and can’t be denied. Eighty years ago this Grand Cru received its AOC status but you can feel the roots go so much deeper. East-facing below the Charlemagne holding, Le Corton is often one of the last wines to be picked and it is this necessity that speaks to the severity and royal power wielded by this king of the appellation. In a word, wow and provided by so much wisdom. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted April 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Bourgogne in a word: Climat

Chambertin Clos de Beze
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

Bourgogne is but a place built upon a word, of wines designed and articulated through their very own personal vernacular. The region’s most important vineyards are defined in a word, in summary and without comparison. Climat is the word and you may be shocked to hear how it is expressed as a highly complex chain of topographical, elemental and ethnological conditions. The glossary is much longer than you might think and adds up to quite a versatile declaration. To arrive at the distilled quotient of one, no less than 20 words are employed, exercised and ushered into explanation. The lineage travels through geography-geology-topography-landscape-position-relief-aspect-exposure-slant-elevation-slope-soil-vegetation-weather-microclimate-humankind-heritage-history-tradition-knowhow and temperament. While we understand the intellectual autonomy of choosing the unescorted word Climat as acting on behalf of all these conditions, what makes it so specific as to be exclusively owned by the people of Bourgogne?

It’s really quite simple. The people of Bourgogne coined the term or rather it came to them, as naturally as signs and portents but in the most positive, abiding and permanent of ways. Climat as in the Latin verbum sapienti, “a word to the wise,” meaning it stands alone, suffices, tells the whole story. Many will ask how many base and necessary conceits comprise this peerless notion that is Climat? The answer is not how many but that it belongs to the Bourguignons and no one else, so deal with it. Climat is the perfect oxymoron, a low and slow developed and yet truly miraculous occurrence, or perhaps a marvel but also forever etched in stone. It’s hard not to feel some trepidation when it sounds like preaching through a biblical voice because like the phrase that speaks to the Ten Commandments, the word implies that nothing else is as absolute and unalterable. In the case of Bourgogne it is owned because of 2,000 years of recorded history, thanks to the educated and the phrénique, of monks, farmers and intellectuals whose minds were connected to a feeling in the pit of their stomachs and to the earth below their feet. Climat keeps you, as it were, on your toes.

Chablis Left Bank, Bourgogne

It’s hard to imagine one word separating something so complex, multiple and diverse from everything else. In the English language “word” can be commensurate with the phrase “I speak the truth.” Climat may or may not have one single meaning, but in this univocal part of eastern France it is used to convey a collective sense of geographical affirmation, acknowledgement and agreement. It may also indicate that some special place has impressed a group of agriculturalists, viticulturalists and consumers so favourably that they would emphasize it as fixed and unchangeable. Farmers and winemakers can try to do the same elsewhere in the world but good luck coming up with a name or a term as precise, succinct or possessive of some semblance of equal meaning as Climat.

“Les Climats sont des parcelles de terre précisément délimitées”

Precisely defined parcels or plots of land. Another way of seeking a definition is to take the what not to do or not to think approach. It insists that Climat should not be misinterpreted. The notion is unrelated to meteorology but is a specific term unique to Bourgogne, designating a specific vineyard site. Bernard Pivot writes “in Bourgogne, when we speak of a Climat, we do not look up to the sky, we keep our eyes to the ground.” 

“Climat is the DNA of each wine

singuliers et multiples”

“Each Climat is a vine plot, with its own microclimate and specific geological conditions, which has been carefully marked out and named over the centuries. Each of them has its own story, produces wines with a distinct character and taste and keeps its own place in the hierarchy of crus (Regional Appellation, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru). Over one thousand named Climats extend along the 60 kilometres of the thin strip of vineyards running from Dijon to Santenay, just south of Beaune, and among them are some of the most famous names from the world of wine ; Chambertin, Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, Montrachet, Corton, Musigny…”

Bourgogne – Regional Appellations

It begins with the broadest of the Bourgogne appellations at the base of the pyramid with regional wines that are the rock and the platform upon which all Climats may stand. Included in this category we find Crémant De Bourgogne, Rouge et Blanc. I asked Laurent Drouhin of Domaine Joseph Drouhin “what does Climat mean to you?” His response. “First of all Climat is a name that is used exclusively in Bourgogne. A Climat to me refers to a specific location in Bourgogne which produces a wine with a unique character only found in that location. That is why in Bourgogne we highlight the name of the wine (Climat) more than the grape variety. I like to say there are thousands of Chardonnay produced in the world, there is only one Montrachet. A good example is the corner of four Climats which are next to each other and produce very different wines due to specifics in the soil and exposure. Montrachet/Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Caillerets/Batard Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Les Pucelles. Four fabulous wines, with incredible character and so different. Basically those four Climats are unique and vineyards are touching each others. Well, That is Bourgogne, That is Climat.” On his regional Bourgogne he told me this. “The Bourgogne Pinot Noir is a blend of several appellations from all over Bourgogne (around 13). So not a specific Climat. There is no vineyard designated as it is a blend of other declassified village level wines such as Macon Rouge, Ladoix, Maranges…. The wine is more of a melody which reflects the elegance and subtlety of the Pinot in Bourgogne.”

Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015, AOC Bourgogne (512574, $24.95, WineAlign)

Dive straight into the regional generalization of Bourgogne with Drouhin as the conduit and the driver. Here is where you initiate with all the usual suspects; red cherries, earth and herbs. Done and done, right and proper. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  maisonjosephdrouhin  philippedandurandwines  @JDrouhin  @Dandurandwines  Joseph Drouhin  Philippe Dandurand Wines

Cedric Dechelette is the General Manager of Maison François Martenot, the company that includes Négociant and estate owner Moillard, along with sparkling wine producer Labouré Gontard. Dechelette has been involved in the Bourgogne wine trade for over 30 years.

Labouré Gontard Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, Traditional Method, AOC Bourgogne (460816, $20.95)

This blush Crémant is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and aligoté. The base wines of the Crémant come from the different subdivisions of the Bourgogne vineyards. Their base wines however are predominantly produced from the vines of the Côtes and Hautes Côtes of Beaune and Nuits and the Côtes Chalonnaise. Different soils confer from limestone and marl in the Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Côtes Chalonnaise and granite in southern Bourgogne. The combing of Bourgogne from north to south delivers a true amassed regional expression for Bourgogne AOC, including such a broad, proper and creamy full Crémant like this Labouré Gontard. Feel the texture of layered terroir and note the blush citrus in its precise acidities. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  lgcf_paris  hhdwines  @HHDImports_Wine  Les Grands Chais De France  H.H.D. Imports Inc.

Domaine De Montille Bourgogne Blanc 2014, AOC Bourgogne (515692, $50.00)

Bourgogne Blanc was never so ambitious, Climat-driven, sober and meditative as this from first Hubert de Montille and today, son Étienne. From toy to bona-fide Bourgogne business, Montille takes regional purpose to the highest level it can afford and with the quest to age. The goal is set for complexity and tertiary aromas, whether Bourgogne AOC or Volnay Premier Cru Taillepieds. This Blanc is so very primary and even herbal, with a specific Bourgogne garrigue, owing to the presence of holly, a thorny scrub bush. The stuff is found in the Beaune vineyard Les Aigrots, from an old dialectical word, “Argifolium.” Texture is viscous, salve-like and peculiar as a result but nothing seven to 10 years couldn’t resolve. The sharp acidity would say the same. If drinking anytime soon it would be a good idea to decant. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2017  domainedemontille  @2Montille  Domaine de Montille

Bourgogne Village

The last example causes some wonder as to what may lay between regional Bourgogne AOC and Village level wines. Decanter Magazine just recently reported the announcement by the BIVB that there is in fact a new level of Bourgogne wines coming soon. The new Bourgogne Côte d’Or was inaugurated in Beaune just this past weekend and will be integrated as a Bourgogne Régionale AOC, not exactly a new appellation but it is the 14th regional Bourgogne AOC. Regulations will dictate vine density (9,000 plants per hectare as opposed to 5,000 at the regional level) and only Pinot Noir grapes can be used for the reds, from vines grown across all villages of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, from south of Dijon to Maranges. Producers will be able to include grapes from young vines that would not necessarily be used in Village level wines. Prices should fall somewhere in between regional and Village and the new category “should be seen as the top of the regional pyramid, just below Village level,” according to Cécile Mathiaud of the BIVB.

Meanwhile long before the wine there were three geological phases; Quaternary, Tertiary and Jurassic, to set the landscape. During the latter period a shallow tropical sea covered what today is France. Major limestone and clay deposits were formed in a variegated mix that generally speaking runs from harder and more prevalent deposits (in the north) to friable, less regnant and heavier clay (in the south). Today in addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay there are Gamay and Aligoté. In Saint-Bris there is Sauvignon Blanc and in Irancy Pinot Noir can be blended with César. The investigation into this essential level of Bourgogne travels in and out of many hamlets and the precisely delineated vineyards associated with the parent village. A Climat is located in the Mâconnais, an outlier is found in Irancy, a not so common white in Marsannay, and an allowable lieu-dit noted on the label in Pouilly-Fuissé. More Village AOC examples are found in a Chablis of a Climat that is essentially Premier Cru, one of the best villages of the Côte de Nuits and the aforementioned Montrachet.

Louis Latour Mâcon Lugny Les Genièvres 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Latour’s lieu-dit Les Genièvres is a warm, rich and distinctly Mâconnais chardonnay, even in its surprising depth and richness for the appellation, coupled with the warmth of the vintage in delivery of terrific value for the money. Bourgogne for all the right reasons, most of all a food happy way to get satisfaction from and with chardonnay. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  louislatour1797  markanthonyon  @LouisLatour1797  @MarkAnthonyWine  MaisonLouisLatour  @MarkAnthonyWine

Domaine La Croix Montjoie Irancy 2014, AOC Bourgogne (269414, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the outlier for pinot noir in Bourgogne, only Irancy tastes like this and carries such linear, in your face, interfaced structure. Irancy is found in the Grand Auxerrois region, on the right bank of the Yonne river, fifteen kilometres South of Auxerre and South-West of Chablis. Domaine La Croix Montjoie was created in 2009, named after a cross located at the intersection of Vézelay and Tharoiseau. This cross signals the spot where pilgrims coming from Avallon first caught sight of Vézelay and felt overjoyed. The domaine is led by a Bourgogne dream team; Sophie and Matthieu (agricultural engineering and oenologist), Thierry and Jean-Louis (farmers), Christophe and Hervé (vineyard workers). Their Irancy is firm, properly and effortlessly acetic in its rising tones. It’s dramatically bright, ripe, veering to darkening cherry and exhibits great tension. While tart, slightly lactic and quick to the punch it’s also peppery and crunchy. This northern pinot noir is blended with césar, a deeply hued variety of only five planted hectares in the Irancy appellation. It is said to have been brought to the area by the Roman legions. Mostly (75 per cent) aged in tank so the freshness steals the show with just enough structure to see five more years of firm pleasure ahead. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted several time May to October 2017  #domainelacroixmontjoie  beauwinespiritsake  @davidbeauroy  Domaine La Croix Montjoie – Vins de Vézelay  

Jadot’s winemaker Frédéric Barnier shed some fascinating insight on how he and his team deal with many different parcels. “As you know we are producing a large range of wines and are really focused on trying to reveal each place. To explain better we are trying to have the same process from a Village to Grand Cru (same ageing same cask same percentage of new oak). We want to show that a Meursault is not a Marsannay and not because we have made something special on the wine but just because they are different. For the Marsannay White, this wine is coming from a blend of three different plots we are farming. One of it is planted with Chardonnay Rosé which is pink but it lost the color after fermentation. It is a rare wine from Côte de Nuits. Most of Marsannay is red or a few rosé. 2011 is showing very well now. Whites are rich but still fresh from an early vintage picked on the very first days of September.”

Louis Jadot Marsannay 2011, AOC Bourgogne (522136, $41.95, WineAlign)

The rare and elusive Marsannay blanc is a fine and beautiful thing, laden with dry extract, intense grape tannin and the pure intensity of liquid limestone. It is here in this wine from the northernmost commune of the Côte d’Or where the idea of fruit and of chardonnay is just an afterthought because the sheer and non-mitigating saltiness of this stony Bourgogne is simply hypnotizing. This is a steal of great Village proportions. I would stack this up against many Premier Cru two and three times its price. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted November 2017  louisjadot  halpernwine  @ljadot  @HalpernWine  Louis Jadot    Halpern Wine

Kerrie de Boissieu, Oenologue at Château de Lavernette explains that “Climat is a vineyard designation.  It is the custom in Bourgogne to give names to parcels.  Today, those names mean very little to us personally but they do allow us to compile a history for each parcel and follow it better.  We have Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards in two different Climats: Maison du Villard & Vers Châne. There is no one named Villard in this area now and I don’t know where their house is or why the parcel carries their name. The parcel faces west – southwest so it captures the afternoon sun making it a more luminous wine – cheerful and easily approachable. Vers Châne means “towards Châne” The parcel faces east – southeast capturing the morning light.  It is a colder, stonier, more complex mistress that needs to be coaxed to cooperate. It is well worth the trouble though as it has a nicely chiseled structure and ages gracefully.” I asked Kerrie to comment on Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014, the wine and the vineyards. “This wine has always been our chouchou (favorite).  Xavier and I bought the vineyard in 2007.  It belongs to us and not to Château de Lavernette.  The first time we harvested the grapes was the day our son, Basile, was born and it made for a really exciting day.  There are two parcels divided by a row of peach trees (peches des vignes).  It is in an amphitheater protected by a forest on the northern side.  The soil is a rocky scree with limestone tumbling down from Les Rontets.  The wine seems to be marked by each of these elements: peach blossom, stone fruit, woodsy underbrush and saline minerality. Hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed, indigenous yeast, fermented and aged in Bourgogne oak barrels (228 L, 20% new) for 22 months.  

Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014, AOC Bourgogne (496372, $42.95, WineAlign)

The lieu-dit locale for Lavernette’s Pouilly-Fuissé is called “Vers Châne,” a chardonnay that might mean “down a silk road.” This is in fact a true expression of polished texture, a Pouilly-Fuissé warm and rich if decidedly linear-focused, with some real vanilla-tinged, toasty barrel notes. That the appellation speaks most truth when the combination of ripeness and smoulder are mixed and then married to the specific PF acidity (like preserved lemon), then reality bites. The smoky, flinty edge is a little over the edge but two years should help to soften, match with the downy texture and ultimately settle the score. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted August and November 2017  #chateaulavernette  @NaturalVines  Château de Lavernette  

Domaine Oudin Chablis Les Serres 2014, AOC Bourgogne (WineAlign)

Just south of Chablis there are hilltop vineyards above and around the village of Chichée where Les Serres draws its superior fruit for what is ostensibly (though not labeled as such) Premier Cru. Jean-Claude and Christiane began here in 1988 and it is now Nathalie and Isabelle who use Les Serres old vines fruit (some up to 70 years) for this transcendent and worthy Chablis. Les Serres are “the greenhouses,” an apropos moniker for a wine that not only receives but gifts so much warmth and generous fruit without ever straying from its stony and salty roots. The texture here is above and beyond textbook for Premier Cru and elevated for the sharp vintage. So settled at this point it is just a pleasure to taste. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted November 2017  #domaineoudin  vinsdechablis  @purechablis  #domaineoudin

When I asked Luc Bouchard which Climat most defines the notion for the estate he replied “from Bouchard estate we are very proud of the Climat of Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, monopole of Bouchard since 1791, a unique terroir with gravely soil (unique in Beaune ). The roots go very deep into the soil (9 m), so if we have a very dry summer there is always enough water far below and if there is heavy rain storm, the drainage is so good that the water is not directly swallowed by the grapes. That explains the consistency of the wine, it’s unique texture and ageing potential.” On his Gevrey Chambertin 2015 he had this to say: “The 2015 vintage is a superb vintage; normal quantity and high quality from Bourgogne generic up to top Grand Cru. Gevrey is one of the best villages of the Côte de Nuits and our sourcing of grapes come from four different growers (from different locations too) that allow us to have a better representation of the appellation and a better balance. Gevrey 2015 shows a deep and intense garnet red colour, intense bouquet red fruit and a touch of gamey taste. Good structure and very nice balance, ripe tannins, with a long finish. Can be drunk from now (with good aeration before) and can be aged for five up to 10 years.”

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin 2015, AOC Bourgogne (661330, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s 2015 is incredibly forward Gevrey Chambertin, full of fruit, flowers and a beautifully integrated red liquid chalky syrup. It’s just plain getable and is the godfather to all of its peers. If you want to show the world and everyone in it who knows or knows nothing about high-level Bourgogne then perhaps consider this to be the journey’s departure point. Gevrey and especially in the hands of Bouchard is such a gate for what it means to build pinot noir from the earth upwards. It explains what needs in a language you can understand and makes an offer you can’t refuse. Pour this every day simply because it is quintessentially ripe and structured stuff. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April and November 2017  bouchardpereetfils  woodmanws  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS  Bouchard Père & Fils  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Mont Chauve En Pimont Chassagne Montrachet 2012, AOC Bourgogne (496372, $67.95, WineAlign)

Still in a state of hyper reductive possibility this is an ambitious and beautifully calcareous Chassagne, full of deep lemony preserve and variegated waves of acidity. Though it breathes of some age development it is in fact a greatly structured chardonnay that will continue to benefit from further development. Where texture and complexity meet. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2017  aupieddumontchauve  #BNDWines  Au Pied du Mont Chauve  Devon Masciangelo

In addition to running his own Domaine de Bellene and négoce Maison Roche de Bellene, Nicolas Potel has drawn upon some secret resources to deliver old wines made new again. His sourcing of older parcels from producers who somehow hid these top vineyard gems from the world is a gift of generous proportions. Ask Nicolas what he thinks about Les Climats and the hardest working man of leisure, diplomat and ambassador extraordinaire for the wines of Bourgogne will open up his heart and his mind. Says Potel, “the characteristics and Climats of every site and village are truly unique. To make a very good village wine, you need to ideally source grapes from south, central and northern areas of the village. This way it shows the full expression of the village for the vintage in question. Single vineyards based on identification of one site. Volnay is all about elegance. Nice tannin, structure and acidity with pure fruit character. The terroir in Volnay is always very transparent in the wine because of this elegance. What about Gevrey-Chambertin? Last February I tasted the 1999 Village and 2001 Premier Cru Petit Chapelle and today, the ’01 Village. Immediacy meets reflection to bring clarity into the light. This is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, Village and Climat.

Roche De Bellene Gevrey Chambertin “Collection Bellenum” 2001, AOC Bourgogne (514430, $74.00, WineAlign)

Though time has exorcised some fining away of the more grainy and delicate texture of this Village level Gevrey Chambertin it hangs securely in the balance between youthful and aged. As a lovely mature pinot noir it should be considered as occupying space in the categorical order between Village and Premier Cru, once destined for greatness but now in the waning, twilight of its career. What happens in this space is a complex combination of cured red fruit, weighty earthiness, mushroom, truffle and dried herbs. All merely hints mind you so several years of life will persist to deliver further pleasure. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2017  domaine_de_bellene  nicholaspearcewines  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_  Bellene  Nicholas Pearce

Southwestern slope in Gevery Chambertin
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

What is Climat?

Our fiends at the Bureau Interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) have established the reference point for the written understanding of the true meaning of Climat. I posed the question of concept to several producers and négociants. Most pointed straight to the BIVB website for answers “Over the past 2,000 years, the Bourgogne winegrowing region has benefited from the experience of men and women, from the observation of the soil, and from the region’s unique microclimates. This has given rise to a patchwork of plots whose qualities have been identified and acknowledged: the Climats and lieux-dits. The Climats and lieux-dits give Bourgogne wines their unique identity. Their names bear witness to the region’s rich history. Their origins lie in the environment, local heritage, savoir-faire (know-how) and human history. The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne. It is the Bourguignon expression of the notion of terroir.”

“The Climats and lieux-dits are the ultimate expression of the notion of terroir. They guarantee the unique characteristics of each wine and offer an unrivaled taste experience. Climats are precisely delineated plots of land that enjoy specific geological and climatic conditions. When combined with human effort and translated through the two great Bourgogne varietals of Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites, they give rise to an exceptional range of appellations that are classified according to quality and which enjoy international renownThe Climats confer their own unique organoleptic qualities onto the wines of Bourgogne, such as their appearance, aromas, flavours and texture.”

“exceptional range of appellations that are classified according to quality and which enjoy international renown…the result of the alchemy between men and women and the natural world”

“Some Climats were first referenced as far back as the 7th century, such as Clos de Bèze in Gevrey. For centuries, the reputation of Bourgogne wines was driven by the monks of Cîteaux, and then by the Dukes of Bourgogne. Some wines, such as Clos Vougeot and Montrachet, which bore the name of the Climat where they were grown, acquired a reputation that extended beyond French borders. In 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word “Climat” and began using it in legal texts applying to all Bourgogne appellations, whatever their level of hierarchy. The Climats are a sign of excellence and on 4 July 2015, the Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lieux-dits are also plots recognized for their own topographic or historical specificities. Their precise geographical location is not registered by the INAO. A certain number of producers choose to feature the name of their lieu-dit on their labels, such as Pouilly-Fuissé, Le Clos Reyssié.”

Gevery Chambertin
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

Bourgogne Premier Cru

Les Climats are Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) defined vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. While there are some who consider Climats as also relating to things atmospheric, the pragmatic consensus keeps the discernment ground into dejection depressions, alluvial fans and geological anomalies in an otherwise south by southwest set of exposure slopes for the best of Bourgogne wines. Still others would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. The notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation is how each village has managed to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Four exceptional Bourgogne Premier Cru

Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru La Cailloute 2014, AOC Bourgogne (473793, $31.75, WineAlign)

Theulot Juillot’s is a Mercurey Premier Cru with a direct connection between Bourgogne and Ontario by way of the great region’s educator and ambassador Jean-Pierre Renard. Given and extra year in bottle  the form tannic grip has loosened, if only a lace or two while it continues to match fruit with umami. Persists in its display as one of the more over-performing reds from one of the most out performing villages in all of Bourgogne. Last tasted on several occasions, June-October 2017

From vines planted in 1979 and 1980, the crest of the ridge at 300m is a prized locale in Mercurey that sees fit to fresh, vibrant and structured pinot noir. The beautiful dichotomous relationship between ripe and juicy opposite firm and sweetly tannic is met in this functional Mercurey, a Premier Cru of upbeat excellence. Very representative of place because of the grip but it goes light years beyond the lithe and the under-performed. You could pour this for Burgundy label chasers and they would cry sweet Nuits St. Georges. Raspberry and strawberry with plenty of umami minerality and that firm tannin up the back. Really tempurpedic acidity never reacts and always supports. Theulot Juillot may suggest five to eight years of cellar time but this is a 10-15 year Mercurey. No fooling. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted September and October 2016  #domainetheulotjuillot  #domainetheulotjuillot  Jean-Pierre Renard

Louis Moreau

Louis Moreau studied oenology-viticulture at Fresno State University (California) before working in several vineyards across the state. In 1994, after eight years in the United States, he returned to France to take over the family business, succeeding his father Jean-Jacques. He then expanded his facilities to leverage the harvests yielded on 110 hectares comprising the family’s two estates, namely Domaine Louis Moreau and Domaine de Biéville. Today, Louis Moreau produces and markets Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, with a focus on finding the best quality and respecting the environment. Since February 2016 Moreau has been the Vice-President, Commission Chablis of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, AOC Bourgogne (124362, $43.00, WineAlign)

Vaillons is drawn from sub-appellative blocks in Les Epinottes and Roncières, with some vines as old as 65 years and yields quite low for where concentration trumps quantity. Very rich and concentrated is indeed the mode here, with good mineral bled from stone and very little in terms of sour or lactic edges. This is amenable Vaillons to be sure. A purity subsists and solicits simple and non-specific pairings, like Dorado, Sea Bass or Magret de Canard. There is this amazing salinity that hints at iodine, lemon and lime, but I would not call it salty. I would call it really refined Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016 and several times May-October 2017  chablislouismoreau  louismoreauchablis  artisanal_wine_imports  @MoreauLouis1  Louis Moreau  @artisanalwineimports

“The word Climat is from Bourgogne and designates a viticulture terroir,” explains Megan McClune, Directrice at Domaine Jessiaume. “It is a certain piece of land, with vines, that is named, has a story and specific geological and climate conditions.  The Climat is the association of land, grape variety and craftsmanship. We strive to produce all of our wines so that each wine expresses where it comes from in the glass.  We produce three wines from one parcel of land in Auxey Duresses les Ecussaux. This definitely expresses the notion of Climat. Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières is a very special piece of land.  We have a history of over a hundred years in this piece of land.  The soil is quite rocky and produces a wine with a peppery finish year in and year out.”

Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières 2013, AOC Bourgogne (487488, $50.00, WineAlign)

Built in 1850, Domaine Jessiaume was purchased in 2007 and is owned and operated by the Scottish family Murray. Situated right at the gates of the important Côte de Beaune village of Santenay it comprises 37-plus acres, with large plots in Santenay, holdings in the Premiers Crus Auxey Duresses Les Ecusseaux and Volnay Les Brouillards and a section of Beaune les Cent Vignes vineyard. Les Gravières is located at the northern end of the village, on the border with Chassagne-Montrachet. Jessiaume are indubitably Santenay specialists and the famous limestone, oolite and marl plot of Les Gravières (to which a new wall was recently added at its base) is interpreted beautifully bright, from cherry tones to cherry strength. The mesoclimate is fully realized in this sunny ’13 and the wine represents the heart and meat of Bourgogne, from that textbook bright fruit and back down to earth. It’s taut and nearly bracing, just a perfect example of a very specific and storied Climat. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March and November 2017  domainejessiaume  beauwinespiritsake  @DmneJessiaume  Domaine Jessiaume  

Domaine Chanson Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru Les Vergelesses 2013, AOC Bourgogne (227199, $66.95, WineAlign)

South of the hill of Corton is where Chanson owns five-plus hectares in Vergelesses, the most famous Premier Cru that gave its name to the village of Pernand. You can feel the lower slope heavy clay but also the upper stones, first in power, grip and texture and then through a liquid red chalky streak. Pernand from the Celtic, “the (spring) source that is lost” and Vergelesses from the Middle French verge, meaning “rod,” a reference to the parcel’s long shape. It is a name which dates back to when Charlemagne owned vines on the Montagne de Corton. Just coming into its zone around now after the toast, grilling notes and calculous grittiness have begun to soften and fade. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February and November 2017  domainechanson  @domainechanson  Domaine Chanson  John Hanna & Sons Ltd.

Premier Crus of Chablis, Montrachet, Mercurey and Nuits-St.-Georges

Domaine Louis Max Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Les Damodes 2014, AOC Bourgogne (469080, $94.00, WineAlign)

Here is an outsanding Nuits Saint Georges from a marl and limestone vineyard just a stone’s throw from Vosne-Romanée. Les Damodes sings a northern NSG song and its ladylike name carries a legend that tells of fairies inhabiting the rocky landscape. The formations looked like tall ladies in long dresses, “les dames hautes,” or “damaudes,” then “damodes.” The vines in the furthest northeastern block north and east of the village look to the east and the soils are poor so the expectation elicits a thoughtfulness to solicit tension and finesse. That it does, first from a stony-lime-pomegranate-red cherry purity and then a fineness of acidity meets tannic honesty. Domaine Louis Max holds widely in Bourgogne, in Mercurey and Rully, as well as the south of France estates of Château Pech-Latt in Corbières and Domaine la Lyre in Côtes-du-Rhône. Les Damodes is a perfect example of a larger, modern-day producer making a small, site-specific Premier Cru from a storied piece of land. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted several times, May to October 2017  #domainelouismax  Louis Max

Marchand Tawse Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Champ Gain 2014, AOC Bourgogne (470112, $114.00, WineAlign)

Champ Gain is located in the northern reaches of Puligny-Montrachet, above Les Folatières, edging off the eastern slopes of Mont-Rachet and in between the appellations of Saint-Aubin and Meursault. It’s essential perch on the rump of the mountain at 350m lends a perfect south-east exposure. The soil is highly variegated, even for Bourgogne, with friable and broken clay-limestone littered with pebbles and stones. A classic élevage of 18 months in (25 per cent) new wood delivers an archetypal if texturally modern Puligny. The name is simply “field reclaimed by the forest,” which separates itself from no other vineyard in the region but one Premier Cru‘s “gain field” is another’s “perdre la forêt.” What really distinguishes Pascal Marchand’s Champ Gain is texture, not just in how it glides, caresses and layers but in how it ties up its laces so taut, tight and in the end it’s an impenetrable Bourgogne. The force field around its fruit is a pure mineral tide that is yet to ebb and flow. It’s coming soon though, despite the crackerjack vintage that elevates the entire gain. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted several times May to October 2017  marchand_tawse  moraytawsewine  burgundy_direct_imports  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @MorayTawse  @Burgundy_Direct  Marchand-Tawse  

Bourgogne Grand Cru

Historically speaking, when did this omniscient term Climat switch to the wine business? It may have origins and or co-existence in the Jura, but it is definitely a word that belongs to that part of eastern France. So why is or better yet, when did Bourgogne become the birthplace of terroir? We know it to be a matter of nature and people, both of which need time, hope and literacy to transmit information. You need place and you need monks. Record keeping, true delineation of land and the erecting of the walled in vineyards (Les Clos) really began after the monks were handed down the torch from the Celts and the Romans.

Between the 15th century and the French Revolution the vineyards began to be divided up and the notion of Climat emerged. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the ranking of Climats and terroir. Regulations were introduced during the 20th century. The word “Clymat” appeared for the first time in Chablis in 1540 and then again in 1584 in a document about the Clos de Bèze. The first mentions of Climats in this sense were recorded by Abbot Arnoux in 1728 when he described the vines of the “côte.” The movement to define and spread the word about the Climats led to the first classifications of the vineyards, by André Jullien in 1819, Dr. Denis Morelot in 1831 and Dr. Jules Lavalle in 1855. The names of the villages on the côtes was added to the name of their most famous Climat, with the first being Gevrey-Chambertin in 1847.

The first protection systems were introduced:  The laws of 1905, 1919 and especially 1935, which defined the notion of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. In 1944, the names of the Climats classified as Premiers Crus were added to the decrees for Village appellations. On July 4, 2015 the term Climat was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Aubert De Villaine, President of the Association for this inclusion said “nowhere else has the quest for harmony between a wine and the place it is produced been as subtle and sophisticated as in the Bourgogne region with the Climats. The Bourgogne region has a universal value.”

Didier Séguier of Domaine William Fèvre

Domaine William Fèvre can be used as an ideal example of a launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapping kimmeridgian-affected fruit in 50 per cent oak and tank equality for all his Grand Cru.

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2015, AOC Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre’s Les Clos takes a bit of an unexpected turn so from 2015 it currently goes stone cold and remains intensely locked. From what we know the vintage should be generous from the start but in this instance Les Clos makes use of every ounce and fibre of kimmerridgian being to lay only salt, fossil and stone before you. The fruit kept hidden away makes you pine for fleshy orchard apples. Nothing can really prepare you for the Les Clos iron gate, especially when you were expecting a welcome mat laid out at your feet. Take the time to charm and be charmed, at least 15 minutes with a glass or 15 years if you can offer up the time. The Grand Cru will slowly open up and speak in a vernacular of controlled energy, fineness of acidity and exceptional balance. This will be one for the ages.  Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2017  williamfevre_chablis  woodmanws  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS  @domainewilliamfevre  Woodman Wines & Spirits

The greatest pleasure to welcome Jean-Pierre Renard and Nelly Blau of @vinsdebourgogne to Toronto.

The only true intrinsic reality gained through a discussion about Climat is accessed by the tasting and assessment of examples that represent a full cross-section of Bourgogne. The appellations of Chablis et du Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and Couchois, the Macônnais and the Châtillonnais are best understood by comparative studies of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from regional Bourgogne to Village and through Premier and Grand Cru wines. With more than 100 appellations (84 officially recognized) it would take a lifetime and then some to cover them all and several more to come to grips with the very specific meanings and interpretations of their personalized Climats. By that time the moving target would change so much that starting again would be the only option. Make the most of the time there is, which is the way of the Bourguignons.

If you are looking for an answer as to why Bourgogne wines are so expensive, subscribe to the following idea. If to you unadulterated Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, respected producers and Climat mean anything at all then the Bourgognes are worth the price, if only because they are the rarest group of wines on the planet. Consider the region sixty kilometres in length, with 28,715 hectares under vine split up into thousands of different plots. Each are tiny by comparison with most of the rest of the world’s identified terroirs. We can’t all afford Bourgogne but at every level the quality is reflective of the cost. Truly. We can however search for terrific value in the multitude of villages where quality has improved dramatically in recent times. Names like Chablis, Montagny, Saint-Véran, Mercurey and Santenay are but a handful. All of Bourgogne waits for you.

Sources

https://www.bourgogne-wines.com/

https://www.climats-bourgogne.com

http://www.decanter.com/

Chambertin Clos de Beze photo
(c) Scott Zebarth

Good to go!

Godello

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Rewriting history at Meerlust back to 1984, one vintage at a time

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

It was on September 12th, 2017 that a once in a lifetime South African vertical tasting happened. The South African Wine Society managed to acquire 10 Meerlust wines from nine vintages gathered over 15 years. In Toronto. At The University of Toronto Faculty Club. It’s not that I want to invoke the dystopian dread of George Orwell nor do I equate the master’s writing with the wines of Meerlust but tasting 1984 through to 2010 has provoked the linguistic drama in me to invoke some wordsmith parallels. “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Winemaker Chris Williams may not totally disagree.

Few Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tastings are capable of determining such a clear picture in style, patterning and evolution, save for perhaps for obvious reasons what is possible out of Bordeaux. This focused collection from Meerlust connected past to present and with no real South African presence in the room. A 25-minute video presentation by Williams and the wines were all the 75 guests in attendance had to go on. By the time the winemaker had sped-tasted and rapid-dissected the nine vintages most of the four-ounce pours in the room were drained. It was a quick to state of bliss happy bunch.

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. On the 3rd July 1693, the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, granted the land to Henning Hüsing, who named the farm Meerlust, describing the sense of pleasure he obtained from the sea breezes that blew inland from False Bay. Johannes Albertus Myburgh bought Meerlust in January 1757. His ownership marked the foundation of the Myburgh Dynasty.

Hannes Myburgh, eighth generation owner of Meerlust, graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in French and English in 1982, before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany. Hannes worked at Chateau Lafite in France and von Oetinger in Germany. Chris Williams was appointed Cellar Master at Meerlust in 2004 but has worked as Assistant Winemaker for the farm since 1995. He studied Oenology at Elsenberg and gained international experience in France while working for Michel Rolland. He is assisted by Wilson Waterboer and the cellar team.

Remarkable history and longevity through 10 back vintages of @meerlustwine #rubicon with the South African Wine Society. Thank you LK for the generous treat.

Rubicon is Meerlust’s flagship wine and considered one of South Africa’s premier Bordeaux Blend reds, first made in 1980. This vertical of nine vintages included 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008  and 2009. I’ve added 2010, tasted recently through Ontario’s VINTAGES release program. In addition, we tasted cabernet sauvignon 2004, infrequently made, the previous time in 1993. This is the prime ingredient to the Bordeaux blend, usually making up around 60 per cent of the wine, with merlot, cabernet franc (and from 2008 on), petit verdot added. Thank you to Laurel Keenan of Wines of South Africa Canada, for having me and to Eleanor Cosman of the South African Wine Society, for hosting. Here are the notes.

Meerlust Rubicon 2010, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (64329, $37.95, WineAlign)

Meerrlust’s iconic blend is a Stellenbosch essential, of the ripest fruit and fully-rendered barrel. I’m quite amazed at its uncanny ability to appeal, even at this seven year mark, a show of generosity and gregarious character almost unparalleled for a wine of its Western Cape ilk. The geology runs deep, neither reductive, sap-flowing or bouncy, but the mineral sear and streak is certainly there. This Rubicion trades fecundity for earthy chocolate, uncompromising and unapologetic in its frosting. Beef is a must, preferably rare and dark from high heat char. Dry-aged and or Wagyu would pair even better. The blend is 62 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (24) merlot, (12) cabernet franc and (2) petit verdot. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2009, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Winemaker Chris Williams forged the people’s Rubicon in 2009, a Bordeaux blend as recognizable in name and style as much as any produced in not only South Africa, but worldwide. Everything is attractive in 2009, beginning with these quite lovely liquid dusty, rich mulberry and deep plum notes. To a crowd of 75 it can’t help but be the standout of general consensus for its sheer restrained hedonism and unabashed beauty. Youth has so much to do with how this shows but believe me 2009 is just a baby, so much more so than 2008 and they are only a year apart. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot, (9) cabernet franc and (1) petit verdot. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

The 2008 is the first vintage with some petit verdot in the mix though it’s just a start, with one per cent to go along in a blend of (71) cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (9) cabernet franc. Shows some volatility and also more wood in the context of an espresso-chocolate continuum. Here a deeply hematic and iron schisty Rubicon, intense, brooding, mineral well dug deep into the terroir. This goes strong and powerful up the sides of the tongue with that fine but intense acidity. Unquestioned as a fine wine with lots of wood derived chocolate flavours but the spice is all fruit and the tannin from off of that fruit. Massive structure and age possibility will go well into the twenties. Drink 2017-2027.  Last tasted September 2017.

Rubber dust, road macadam and strawberry jam. Fierce Bordeaux Blend home from a hot climate. This has gritty obduracy and doggedness. Like a red blend with a gun, walking the mean streets. Acidity shot through the roof. Bordeaux meets South Africa in every shared, resplendent and promising way. Rasping tannins contain bursting dark fruit, the grain running in multiple directions. Respect. Wait two more years on this and drink comfortably past 2020. Tasted November 2014

Meerlust Rubicon 2007, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2007 is the last to be made without any petit verdot (74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (11) cabernet franc) and is actually not too dissimilar to ’06 though truly lighter and with more high bright intensity. It is also possessive of that collective ropey, red dusty cured and dried fruit character, like what can happen with traditionally adhered to sangiovese and tempranillo. So really when you think about it this shares a style, at least in part with more than its Bordeaux cousins. Yet go and ask winemaker Chris Williams and he’ll tell you “I dont think this wine could be made anywhere else because of terroir and history.” Fair enough. Surely the winemaker knows. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2006, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon is one of the original South African Bordeaux blends, here in 2006 with merlot and cabernet franc to satisfy the blended needs of cabernet sauvignon. The blend is 74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (8) merlot and (18) cabernet franc. This ’06 is a bit shy, reserved, not giving much away from its usual floral heights. There is a layering of palate density before then deriving its complexity through the alleys of acidity, tannin and structure. Still so far from coming around but this reminds me of that salty, saline and mineral 1996. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2005, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 2005 the blend (69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (16) cabernet franc) saw an increase of cabernet franc, likely because of heat units and a vintage-driven jamminess exhibited by the cabernet sauvignon. The result is a cooler, increased savoury blend with a rising of steroidal currants so very sapid in a pool of high acidity. It’s the most lucent Rubicon, almost luminescent though not quite transparent, still so vital, pulsating and nearly raging in its wild, twitchy edgy energy, even beastly and in the end, just a bit out of balance. Like a Steve Vai riff in Zappa mode. Then again, the, Rubicon ’05, anything but a flex able leftover or quaint little wine might tell me, “I’m the beast of love and you just got in my way.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2004 is a completely different animal, with animale musk and a deep, dark and brooding constitution. The blend is 63 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (27) merlot and (10) cabernet franc. Shows 13 years on as the young (Chris Williams) winemaker’s ambitious first solo effort, while the wood was once so obviously in power of demand, it’s now ameliorated and integrated. This must have taken some time to come around, perhaps as recent as a year or two ago. Rubicon has been produced since 1980, was previuosly a matter of cabernet sauvignon, now here with more cabernet franc than before. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2003, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2003 was made by Chris Williams’ predecessor Giorgio Dalla Cia and from ’04 on they are made by Williams. The blend is 69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (12) cabernet franc. From a long hot dry sumer, a classic Rubicon, again with some lovely complexity out of the shadow of volatility, more savour here and cedar, plus pencil lead and graphite. In the freshest of ways this is closer to the present stylistic of Rubicon and Stellenbosh and further away than 1996. It’s the transition from old to new, with concentrated black currant, Cassis and wine gum. Not quite tertiary bit meaty char, balsamic, fennel and mushroom are just around the corner. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2001, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

2001, a warmer vintage is the assumption, with its wood still in play and tannins truly continuing their assertion. Giorgio dalla Cia fashioned a truly proportioned blend, of 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon with equal parts merlot and cabernet franc. While it can’t hide from its ocean salinity and omnipresent terroir it is a stand out vintage because of new world opulence. I’m not sure there will be another Rubicon in this tasting or at any opportunistic time that will make one dream so vividly of Bordeaux (i.e Château Pichon Longueville Baron) but also Napa Valley (i.e. Opus One). The structure in this Rubicon is purely Stellenbosch and with its merlot/cabernet franc proportion it’s quite intriguing, especially because of the warmth and how dramatically this foreshadows how franc will become more important in the blend as the years progress by. A fantastic wine Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1996, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 1996 Chris Williams was a junior winemaker (to Giorgio della Cia) at the time but he remembers the vintage well. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot and (10) cabernet franc, from a cool vintage, here still dishing some Brettanomyces. It’s in check and so kind, gentle and helps to fixate towards thinking it a a sleeper vintage sort of personality There is much savour, still fruit (mulberry and plum), lots of acidity in quite a sour patch candy way but really dry and intense.Plenty of sediment! Very much alive with the silty, salty, but not fine pearly tannin. This falls into the saline-savoury style with wood just a dream from long ago, though admittedly a bit too pungent and earthy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1984, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. Rubicon 1984 is poured (with brilliant decision making) from magnum and is therefore fresher than the 1996 with an incredibly controlled level of fineness in tannin, from acidity and at the threshold of understood volatility. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood,” like this early Rubicon. The future of Meerlust is foretold with Orwellian transparency, bold honesty and expert ability. “Who controls the past controls the future.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (283390, $29.95, WineAlign)

Meerlust’s solo cabernet sauvignon ’04 is not merely very much alive it’s still full of bright fruit, though the wood is more noticeable than on the Rubicon. It is the lack of cabernet franc more than anything that seems to be the reason. The ganache component is highly significant, a chocolate factor magnified but still the Meerlust acidity drives the machine. Ripe and ripping with tannins still very much in charge, this wouldn’t be harmed by the generous and patient affording of more time so that it may further evolve to become the pleasing red it knows it will be. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

Good to go!

Godello

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